WHEATFIELD – Thomas J. Larson has never run for office before, but he’s certainly jumping in with both feet – not to mention both major parties.
The Air National Guardsman is entered in both the Democratic and Republican primaries for Wheatfield supervisor.
In the GOP race, Larson, a county GOP committeeman, will take on incumbent Supervisor Robert B. Cliffe. He said Friday he also expects to be authorized to run on the Democratic line, where another first-time candidate, builder James P. Zetes, is entered.
“I’m a Democrat, and I have no idea how that happened,” Zetes said. “Running in both the Democratic and Republican primaries – I’m not sure how that will go over.”
Larson, a member of the 107th Airlift Wing at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, also works in computer information technology at the University at Buffalo School of Medicine. He’s been at UB since 2000 and at the medical school since 2006.
Even if he loses both primaries, he expects to be on the November ballot as the nominee of the Working Families Party.
Larson acknowledged that he and his “running mates” for the Town Board, Michael A. Kislack and Karen McKernan, also Republicans who filed petitions in both major parties, are getting political advice from former Supervisor Timothy E. Demler.
Demler was beaten by Cliffe in 2009. Demler tried a write-in effort against Cliffe in 2011 that also failed.
“I don’t know that I’d classify it as a friendship, but we have a relationship,” Larson said of Demler.
“The primary candidates are being put up by former Supervisor Demler,” county Republican Chairman Scott P. Kiedrowski said. “Apparently, he feels he still has some reason to meddle in the affairs of Wheatfield.”
The endorsed Republican candidates for councilman are incumbent Arthur W. Gerbec and Randy W. Retzlaff.
Larson charged that Cliffe is responsible for tax increases. “We’ve had spending that’s out of control, services that have been cut,” he said.
“The facts prove that incorrect,” Cliffe said. “Each of the three budgets I’ve produced, taxes have gone down.”
Zetes said Cliffe “was handed a hard job. Larson is blaming him for stuff that started when Demler was supervisor.”
Zetes, a home builder for 38 years, said of Cliffe, “He’s a good supervisor, but he’s probably from the old school, and he doesn’t have the vision I have.”
That vision calls for more commercial development.
“I’m a builder, but every time another house goes up, you’ve got another two kids going to school, and every time more kids go to school, the school tax goes up,” Zetes said. “Wheatfield has never had a good mix.”
While supervisors going back to the 1980s have pushed for residential subdivisions, Zetes said the only major commercial development in Wheatfield has been in industrial parks full of companies that obtained tax breaks, again forcing residential school taxes upward.
“We’ve got to do something about that,” Zetes said.