First-term Republican Assemblyman Raymond W. Walter is facing an underfunded opponent who has never before held office in his bid to win re-election in the 146th Assembly District, which covers the towns of Amherst and Pendleton.
Walter and his Democratic challenger, Joanne A. Schultz, both are attorneys who entered the University at Buffalo Law School relatively late in life.
Walter is a former Erie County legislator, an upstate Republican who said he relies on building good bipartisan relationships to try to get things done in an Assembly dominated by downstate Democrats.
“You have to be willing to work across the aisle,” said Walter, 40, of East Amherst.
Schultz, who made an unsuccessful run for an Amherst Town Board seat in 2011, is seeking election to the Assembly because she has concerns about sprawl, congestion and a proposed public-private golf course swap in Amherst. But she has raised far less money than Walter.
“It’s an uphill battle for me,” said Schultz, 54, of Amherst.
The campaign between Walter and Schultz is a low-key one, without candidate debates or negative advertising.
Walter is seeking his first full term after defeating Democrat Craig R. Bucki last November in a special election to fill the rest of the term of Assemblyman James P. Hayes, who resigned to enter the private sector.
Walter had served in the County Legislature since January 2009, when he was appointed to fill the seat vacated by Michael Ranzenhofer following his election to the State Senate.
Walter is an associate with Magavern Magavern Grimm, practicing elder law and estate planning. He entered law school after working for 10 years in sales and management for an auto dealership. “You learn how to talk to people and deal with people,” he said.
Walter said one example of his bipartisan approach was his ability to gain Democratic support in the Assembly for a bill sought by Daemen College, which would allow physical therapy faculty to form a practice group. The bill passed both chambers and was signed into law.
Walter said he believes the Western New York delegation works well together. He said he’s pleased the State Legislature passed an on-time budget this year and that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has taken an interest in this region.
“It’s the step in the right direction,” Walter said of the SUNY 2020 legislation that channels new tuition and capital projects revenue to schools like the University at Buffalo.
Walter represents the 148th District, which starting in 2013 will have a new number – the 146th – and no longer will include any part of North Tonawanda.
For next week’s election, Walter holds the Republican, Conservative and Independence party lines, while Schultz has the Democratic line.
Schultz is a member of the Independence Party and has received a $3,000 contribution from the party’s Erie County Committee, but Walter won the backing of the state party and retained the line in a primary.
A mother of three, Schultz was 36 when she started a second career in the law. The solo practitioner does securities litigation on behalf of investors. She also does some bankruptcy law.
Schultz said she’ll serve as an advocate in Albany for consumers and others whose voices are drowned out by special-interest groups, particularly on issues of smart growth.
“I think there’s overdevelopment. Amherst is, in my opinion, it’s just becoming sort of urban sprawl,” she said.
Campaign-finance records show Walter raised a little over $32,000 so far this year, with Walter telling The News he’s raised about $8,000 more since his most recent filing.
Those records show that aside from the $3,000 from the Independence Party, Schultz has raised just $99 for her campaign. She also donated $300 and loaned $3,000 to her campaign, and she said she has raised an additional $2,000.
Schultz is handing out palm cards as she walks door to door in the district, and she did some mailings during the Independence Party primary, but she can’t afford to do a district-wide mailing before Election Day.
She also was out of town for several days recently at a conference that she agreed to attend before entering the race. “I wasn’t thinking about running at the time,” she said.