Cheektowaga businessman Ted Morton lost a hotly contested 2011 race for town supervisor to incumbent Democrat Mary F. Holtz by a few hundred votes, despite an overwhelming party enrollment disadvantage.
He’s ready to try again with a different Democrat and a different legislative body.
Morton, 53, announced Monday that he was “exploring a candidacy” for the Erie County Legislature seat currently held by Terry McCracken of Lancaster. Morton said he intends to “earn the trust and support of district residents.”
A formal announcement is expected within the next few weeks after meetings and discussions of party committees from Alden, Lancaster and Cheektowaga – the towns in the district. He said he intends to seek endorsements from the Republican, Conservative and Independence parties, officials said.
A self-employed financial planner, Morton said he was “bothered” by McCracken’s recent vote to support County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz’s planned increase in county taxes – a measure that ultimately failed. Morton said McCracken declined his chance “to stand up for taxpayers.”
“Instead, he decided to support and lobby for another tax increase,” Morton charged. “We need someone [who] will fight to keep every penny that your earn with you and your family.”
“Our government needs to stop treating the pockets of homeowners like a piggy bank for their overspending.”
McCracken countered that he was looking out for the county’s future in casting that vote and called the GOP’s package to amend the county executive’s budget “irresponsible.”
“No one wants to raise taxes,” McCracken said. “I certainly didn’t in my first year as a legislator.”
The back-and-forth Monday is a likely precursor of the campaign to come.
Morton and Cheektowaga Republicans ran an aggressive and expensive campaign that included advertising on several high-profile billboards throughout the town in his bid to unseat Holtz as well as attacks on her administration, the town’s sanitation department and its head, Frank Max, who is also the town’s Democratic chairman.
Morton and the GOP campaigned on a platform of smaller government, reduced spending and less taxes. Although he narrowly lost, the party scored its first seat on the Town Board in two decades with the election of Councilwoman Angela M. Wozniak.
Party leaders anticipate that Morton will employ a similar message this year. Bryan Fiume, chief of staff for the Legislature’s minority caucus, said small business is affected every day by regulations enacted by the Legislature.
“As a small-business owner, he’s watching his pocket,” he said of Morton. “That’s what we need in the county Legislature.”
Meanwhile, in the nearby 9th District, Democrat Mike Schraft on Monday announced his candidacy for that seat, which is occupied by twice-elected Independence Party member and former television reporter Lynne Dixon.
Schraft is a former U.S. Air Force airman, U.S. Peace Corps volunteer and U.S. State Department official who is a Ph.D. candidate in political science from the University at Buffalo.
Schraft, according to his announcement, states that he “has dedicated his career to public service” and will, if elected, commit himself “to improve Erie County through economic and community development” that includes supporting “private sector economic growth in redeveloping waterfront lands in Hamburg, Lackawanna and South Buffalo.”
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified Lynne Dixon’s political party affiliation.