The endorsed Democratic candidate for Erie County comptroller has dropped out the race with less than four months remaining before the general election.
Lynn M. Szalkowski, a certified public accountant from Lake View, has decided against continuing her campaign for the office, citing health reasons, according to County Democratic Chairman Jeremy J. Zellner.
“Though I am very disappointed, because Lynn is highly qualified and a great public servant, I wish her and her family the absolute best,” Zellner said Thursday.
Szalkowski, 39, was endorsed by the committee in May to run against incumbent Stefan I. Mychajliw, a Republican who also is endorsed by the Conservative Party.
Shortly before she was endorsed, Zellner described Szalkowski as a strong candidate, even though she had not previously run for political office. Szalkowski has, however, run for a seat on the Frontier Central School Board and won.
Zellner said that the party’s executive committee will convene a meeting next week to interview candidates and make recommendations to fill the vacancy created by Szalkowski’s departure.
“Once this process takes place, we will announce a new candidate for comptroller and get right to work focusing on defeating Stefan Mychajliw in November,” Zellner said.
Despite the shortened time frame, Zellner said, he was confident they can still field a formidable candidate.
“At this point, I’ve been approached by a few folks, and I’ve approached some people to run. I feel we’re going to have a strong candidate. … I’m still excited about this race because I think we need somebody who knows what that job is,” he said.
Mychajliw, a former television news reporter and later head of his own public relations firm, has held office since Jan. 1. He was elected in November over Democratic incumbent David J. Shenk to serve out the unexpired term of Mark C. Poloncarz, who was county comptroller at the time he was elected county executive in November 2011.
“Given the things that have happened in the last few months in the Comptroller’s Office, I certainly see this as winnable,” Zellner said Thursday.
“I don’t believe the comptroller is doing a good job. I think he’s the most political comptroller we’ve ever had.”
Mychajliw shot back Thursday.
“This is an unfortunate example of political party bosses trying to manipulate the electoral system to put a handpicked puppet in the Comptroller’s Office,” he said. “It is my understanding that party bosses knew some time ago that my opponent was dropping out. It can be argued that party bosses committed petition fraud by continuing to get signatures for a person they knew wasn’t running.”
Despite the turn of events, Mychajliw said, “I take nothing for granted. I think the important lesson I learned in politics is to stay hungry and stay humble.
“I will run like I’m 20 points behind,” he added, “whoever my opponent is.”