It’s a tough day-after-election-day for Erie County Republicans. Top priority was maintaining control of the county legislature, and that was accomplished. Make no mistake, that was huge. But the slippage down ballot is tough on the eyes.
The GOP has made great gains in recent years in important town offices, against all odds. No doubt, those wins led to the first Republican majority in the legislature in four decades. But yesterday, in a very negative election season, Democrats defeated incumbent GOP supervisors in Lancaster, Evans and maybe even Grand Island. One bright spot: Republican Melissa “Missy” Hartman defeated incumbent Democrat Glenn Nellis for supervisor of Eden. Town boards in Amherst turned Democrat and stayed Democrat in Hamburg and Tonawanda.
Many can be proud of Republican Family Court Judge candidate Brenda Freedman, who worked incredibly hard and ended up handily defeating Democrat Kelly Brinkworth. Spending reports show the two spent a lot less money than many thought:
Freedman spent $241,943 in the campaign, including some $91,432 on the general election, according to campaign reports covering the period up to Oct. 19. Brinkworth spent $184,334 on the campaign, with $12,202 spent during the general election, campaign filings for the same period show.
Republicans can rebuild at the town level; that's a lot easier than recovering countywide. But, congratulations, the party held on to control the County Legislature. The problem: so far, the GOP majority hasn’t kept County Executive Mark Poloncarz in check. Since they gained leadership in 2013, the Republicans have given the Democrat County Executive 125 new patronage jobs. And I've lost track of how many times they rolled over for him to scratch their bellies.
After he declared victory, Poloncarz even told reporters he's had no problem getting what he wants from the GOP majority so far and he doesn't foresee this ending anytime soon.
If Republican Erie County legislators don’t start doing something with their majority, especially after all this, they need to check themselves. In many ways, their timidity has created Mark Poloncarz - and the long coattails several Democrat candidates rode in on last night.
If majority legislators listen to conservative stalwart Ted Morton - fresh off a win in a withering race tougher than any of them will likely ever face - they can stand up and lead.