Tongues are wagging in East Aurora, where Town of Aurora officials have not invited two key local electeds to this week's traditional Town swearing in ceremony for 2014 leadership. Popular Republican Highway Superintendent David Gunner and local favorite Democrat Judge Jeff Markello, both re-elected unopposed in the November election, are not invited to the Wednesday morning event in Aurora Town Hall.
Local Republicans were bitterly divided in Election 2013 over an endorsed GOP slate of candidates who ran against Supervisor Jolene Jeffe and Councilwoman Sue Friess, both registered Republicans and running for the town board. Jeffe and Friess - joined by Councilman Jim Bach, the incoming town supervisor - promised Gunner close cooperation going forward if he stayed out of the battle. He did, much to the chagrin of the town Republican committee. Immediately after the election, Jeffe, Friess and Bach screwed Gunner in the Town budget.
Jeffe, Friess and Bach also pledged to increase Markello's pay slightly to offset their move to cancel his family's health insurance. They didn't make good on their promise. Markello is hopping mad.
This brand of hubris is standard for the Town of Aurora, a secretive and insular government. The town, long a Republican stronghold, has seen a steady rise in registered Democrat residents in recent years. For this reason, local Democratic Party activists are said to be recruiting a fuming Markello to run for Supervisor in 2015 against Bach, the newly-elected Jeffe-Friess ally. They also may be searching for town board candidates, too, to run alongside the widely-respected jurist.
Even though he has been an active member of the GOP committee, Gunner, too, could switch his party registration to Democrat. He made good on his promise to lay down on the 2013 GOP Committee-endorsed candidates and scorched important relationships. He is close to the Aurora Democrats through his wife, an influential member of the local party committee, and was cross-endorsed by the Democrats this year. All local pols agree: a Markello-Gunner ticket could conceivably lead local Democrats out of Siberia and into Town leadership. With strong town board candidates, too, Markello-Gunner's long coattails could sweep the Town clean of any Republican influence.
Interestingly, local Republican committeemen are talking about making peace with Gunner and asking Markello to change his registration to defeat Bach in the 2015 GOP primary. Regardless, the petty snub of two remarkably popular local leaders has opened up a whole new front in Aurora's political wars.