By Eric DuVall
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — Voters in the City of Tonawanda and Grand Island returned veteran Legislator Kevin Hardwick, R-Tonawanda, to the Erie County Legislature — and when he’s sworn in again in January his Republican Party will be in the majority.
Voters county-wide flipped control of the chamber to the GOP for the first time in a generation.
An exuberant Erie County Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy claimed victory on three fronts.
“We set three goals: Re-elect County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw, we’d re-elect our great sheriff, Tim Howard, and we’d elect the first Republican majority since 1977. We did it!” Langworthy proclaimed at a victory celebration in Buffalo Tuesday night.
As of the News’ deadline, Howard had 75,711 votes or 52 percent of the vote over Democratic challenger Richard Dobson with 45,715 votes or 31 percent of the vote and Bert Dunn with 24,314 votes or 17 percent of the vote, with 87 percent of precincts reporting.
Republican Mychajliw was re-elected as comptroller with 82,124 votes or 57 percent of the vote over Democratic challenger Kevin Gaughan with 60,911 votes or 43 percent of the vote, with 87 percent of precincts reporting.
Hardwick, a political science professor at Canisius College, received 7,728 votes or 63 percent of the vote beating Democratic challenger Bill Conrad III, a Kenmore West High School teacher, with 4,494 votes or 37 percent of the vote with 66 percent of the precincts reporting. The win came after a hard-fought race, which included a lawsuit over Conrad’s ballot eligibility.
Conrad was an Independent who filed to run as a Democrat. The filing became the point of controversy when Hardwick and Republican Edward Rath filed a lawsuit over the date of the filing, claiming that the paperwork was turned in after the required deadline.
The issue stemmed from an apparent error at the U.S. Post Office back on July 15, the deadline for filing a permission by the party to allow Conrad to run as a Democrat. The paperwork can be filed in person at the Erie County Board of Elections or postmarked by July 15, election law stipulates.
Jeff Sheridan, executive director of the Erie County Democratic Committee, insisted at the time that the paperwork for Conrad and several other endorsed Democratic candidates was filed on time, but due to an oversight by a post office employee, the ballots were dated a day late. Hardwick and Rath lost all appeals in the case.
Hardwick, reached briefly amid the celebration, pledged Republicans would work in cooperation with Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, a Democrat.
“I think we will work well with the county executive,” Hardwick said. “I don’t think the county executive has anything to fear from us. We’re going to work together on sharing county government. We’re going to make him a better executive.”
Conrad admitted in defeat Tuesday that he’d been fighting an uphill battle going against a well known and liked lawmaker in Hardwick.
Obviously it’s just name recognition,” Conrad said. “Coming, starting in June we worked incredibly hard to get my name out there. Let’s be honest, he’s known. That’s really hard to compete with as a first-time candidate.
“We worked incredibly hard. The people I worked with, it was just tremendous. We learned a lot. We ran a clean campaign and I’m very proud of the effort. Taking on someone like Kevin Hardwick is a long shot to begin with.”
The GOP will hold a one-vote majority in the Legislature, thanks mainly to a flipped seat in Lancaster and Alden, where Republican Ted Morton defeated Democrat Wynnie Fisher.
Democrats held a tightly contested seat in Amherst with Thomas Loughran defeating a spirited challenge from town Highway Superintendent Robert N. Anderson.