For the first time since 1997, residents of the Village of Lancaster have a choice on their ballots in the village elections.
Rejected by his own party, Trustee Edward M. Marki has formed the Integrity of Choice Party and – with running mate Russell W. Sugg – started making the case that the Citizens Party has had unchallenged power in the village for too long.
“Our goal is to bring transparency. Our goal is to end the back-room deals,” Marki said.
Trustee William C. Schroeder and fellow Citizens Party member Jennie E. Smith on Tuesday look to extend their party’s long winning streak and contend they’ve heard few complaints about the management of the village from residents.
“For the most part, they are happy with how things are,” Smith said.
The last trustee who didn’t belong to the Citizens Party was Joseph E. Dennis Sr., who won a write-in campaign in 2006.
The seats of Schroeder and Marki are up for election Tuesday. Citizens Party members in a November vote endorsed Schroeder for another four years, but they backed Smith instead of Marki for the other seat on the five-member board.
In response, Marki recruited Sugg, a political newcomer, to run with him on his ticket.
The two men have raised concerns about Village Board decision-making and stirred up some excitement at recent board meetings, but this year’s election has settled into the personal campaigning required in village-level contests.
Marki has begun objecting to some board decisions, such as which polling places to open for Tuesday’s voting.
He had the backing of the Citizens Party in his races in 2007 and 2009, but he has run an insurgent’s campaign this time.
“I never realized how much control the party I was in had,” said Marki, 43, who taught social studies and English language arts at area Catholic middle schools and last fall opened a video game store in the village.
Sugg, who is 49 and works as a real-property analyst for the state, said he believes his and Marki’s message of change is resonating with the residents he meets as he campaigns.
Sugg said he and Marki view themselves as the underdogs in the race, given the Citizens Party’s edge in organization and fundraising.
“It’s kind of a David versus Goliath,” Sugg said.
The best-known of their opponents is Schroeder, 52, who has served on the Village Board since 2005 and is seeking a third four-year term.
He works as a maintenance mechanic for the Lancaster School District and has an electrical contracting business.
Schroeder said residents are happy with the board’s responsiveness and its members’ efforts to keep taxes in check, and he dismissed Marki’s criticism of the Citizens Party.
“If there was such a machine, and there was such nepotism, Ed was a big part of it,” Schroeder said.
Smith, who is 35, is a social welfare examiner for Erie County who served for three years as the village’s part-time coordinator of special events. Her contract with the village ended in December, but she has continued to perform those duties as the Village Board seeks her replacement.
She concedes the establishment Citizens Party has a fund-raising advantage but said she and Schroeder still must work hard to defeat Marki and Sugg. She said Tuesday’s election will be decided by which candidates inspire their supporters to go to the polls.
Three candidates on Tuesday’s ballot are unopposed:
• Mayor Paul M. Maute, who was appointed to the job last September when former Mayor William G. Cansdale Jr. resigned to accept an appointment as superintendent of public works.
• Trustee Dawn M. Robinson, who was named to fill Maute’s seat and is running for the last two years of his term.
• Village Justice Paul T. Bumbalo.