LITTLE VALLEY — What will the impact be of six new candidates for Cattaraugus County Legislature, on top of a field of 31 existing candidates, in the fall election?
The County Legislature candidates from the newly-organized Cattaraugus County Libertarian Party — plus the cross-endorsement of two Olean Democrats — were announced last weekend by State Libertarian Party Chairman Larry Sharpe at a rally in Olean.
At the rally, Cattaraugus County Libertarian Party Chairman Luke Wenke said, “We can absolutely win and break the two-party dictatorship here in Cattaraugus County.”
Looking at the voter enrollment in Cattaraugus County, the Libertarian Party doesn’t have a lot of voters in the party — less than one for each of the county’s 55 election districts. The Libertarian Party enrollment is expected to nearly double from 43 voters to just about 80 under a new law that changes party enrollment deadlines.
It’s hard to say how 80 registered Libertarians will stack up to the county’s 17,644 registered Republicans, 13,827 Democrats, 1,104 Conservatives and 2,303 Independence Party members.
The Conservative and Independence parties have almost exclusively cross-endorsed Republican candidates. Most Democrats have been cross-endorsed by the Working Families Party.
Cattaraugus County Republican Party Chairman Robert C. Keis Sr. doesn’t see any impact from the new influx of legislative candidates.
“It’s a relatively small number of people,” he explained. “They tend to be further right in their conservatism than Republicans. They’d probably siphon more votes from the Republican side. I don’t see it as a major issue or anything.”
Keis said, “I don’t believe the Libertarian candidates stand even a remote chance of being elected in any town in Cattaraugus County only on the Libertarian line. If they are going to siphon any votes, it would be from Republicans.”
In that respect, the party’s candidates could impact the outcome of a race, he said.
Keis said Republicans “are in great shape” for the fall election. “I think we are going to do very well. It’s entirely possible we’ll pick up a seat or two. Early voting starts Oct. 26. Election Day is Nov. 5.
Republicans control 12 of the 17 seats of the County Legislature and all 17 seats are at stake in the election. Legislators’ terms are for four years, but they can serve only three successive terms.
With no candidate in District 7, Democrats have 15 candidates and Republicans, who have only one candidate in District 5, have 16 candidates. A party needs to elect 9 legislators for the majority.
Three legislators, Chairman James J. Snyder, R-Olean; John Padlo, D-Olean, and Majority Leader Donna Vickman, R-Farmersville could not run again because they have served for 12 years.
In 2018, Democrats teamed with several Republican legislators to form an informal bipartisan majority, electing Republican James J. Snyder, R-Olean, instead of the party’s candidate, Majority Leader Donna Vickman, R-Farmersville.
Frank Puglisi, the Cattaraugus County Democratic Party chairman, isn’t so quick to dismiss the impact on voters of the Libertarian Party message. Two Democrat candidates — Olean Common Council President John Crawford and former Councilman Frank Jester — were cross-endorsed by the Libertarian Party.
“This is their first year in existence,” Puglisi said. “They’ve put up a number of their own candidates on the ballot. They are doing their thing.”
Puglisi said, “Our message to the people of Cattaraugus County is that working for the people and doing the right thing are what this county needs.”
The Democratic Party chairman said there will be some impact from the Libertarians.
“It depends on what the issues are,” he said. “We don’t know if they will siphon votes from the Republicans. We really don’t know what to anticipate.”
In any case, Puglisi said the Democrats have a strong slate of candidates going door to door and getting out their message.
“We hope it pays off in the election,” he said.
The list of County Legislature candidates, by district, follows. The political party designations are: D = Democrat, R = Republican, C = Conservative, I = Independence Party, Working Families = WF and L = Libertarian. An asterisk (*) denotes an incumbent.
District 1: Towns of Dayton, New Albion, Otto, Perrysburg and Persia.
— Mary Jane Stuhr, D, WF.
— Constance Johnson, D.
— *Andrew Burr, R, C, I.
— *Richard Klancer, R, C, I.
District 2: Towns of Ashford, East Otto, Freedom and Yorkshire.
— Edward Arnold, D, WF.
— Mike Miles, D, WF.
— *Joseph Boberg, R, C, I.
— *Richard Helmich Jr., R, C, I.
District 3: Towns of Ellicottville, Farmersville, Franklinville, Lyndon, Machias and Mansfield.
— Sharon Mathe, D, WF.
— Colette Schoening, D, WF.
— Michael Brisky, R, C, I.
— Ginger Schroder, R, C, I.
— Chad Neal, L.
— Abram Stanczykowski, L.
District 4: Towns of Conewango, Leon, Little Valley, Napoli, Randolph and South Valley.
— John Hale, D.
— Matthew Ring, D.
— *Howard VanRensselaer, R, C, I.
— *Norman Marsh, R, C, I.
District 5: City and town of Salamanca and towns of Coldspring, Great Valley and Red House.
— *Susan Labuhn, D, WF.
— *David Koch, D, WF.
— Laurie Hunt, R, C, I.
— Jeremy Kasperek, L.
— Damian Stokes, L.
District 6: Towns of Allegany and Carrollton.
— *Barbara J. Hastings, D, WF.
— *Vergilio “Dick” Giardini, D, WF.
— Robert Parker, R, C, I.
— Donald Benson, R, C, I.
District 7: Towns of Hinsdale, Humphrey, Ischua, Olean and Portville.
— *Joseph Snyder, R.
— Kip Morrow, R, C.
— Eric Firkel, C.
— Anthony Costa, L.
District 8: City of Olean.
— Adam Jester, D, WF, L.
— John Crawford, D, WF, L.
— Gerard LeFeber, D, WF.
— *Frank Higgins, R, C, I.
— Kelly Andreano, R, C, I.
— Richard Smith, R and an independent party.
— Brian George, I.
(Contact reporter Rick Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @RMillerOTH)