For all the talk about who’s going to cut taxes or who’s opposed to big development, Tuesday’s election for Town Board in Amherst will come down to what it always does:
Who will get out the votes?
“That’s the key,” said Carl M. Balmas, chairman of the Amherst Republican Committee.
“The No. 1 factor is turnout,” agreed Dennis E. Ward, Democratic commissioner for the Erie County Board of Elections. “Four years ago, there was an abysmally low turnout, and Democrats suffered more because of that.”
Amherst has roughly 77,000 registered voters, including 4,300 more Democrats than Republicans.
But Ward, the town’s former Democratic chairman, believes it’s dead even, because the number of Democrats tend to be exaggerated by University at Buffalo students who have either moved on or lack interest during an election year with no presidential or governor’s race.
That’s where Amherst’s 14,000 unaffiliated voters come in.
“That’s a pretty substantial number of voters who are non-affiliated,” Ward said.
“Both sides try to convince them,” he said. “In many ways, they tend to be the ones to swing the election.”
The only certainty hanging over this election is that Amherst will have one less public official in town government at year’s end, thanks to a prior vote to downsize the Town Board from six to five seats.
Otherwise, the election has the potential for any number of scenarios that would shake things up in Erie County’s largest suburb.
The supervisor’s race – pitting GOP incumbent Barry A. Weinstein and Democratic challenger Mark A. Manna – has taken center stage and will set the pace for what happens on the rest of the ballot.
But the balance of power – which now rests with a Republican majority on the Town Board – could also shift depending on what happens with the two council member seats up for grabs.
Here’s a snapshot of the four council member candidates seeking four-year terms on the board:
Howard Cadmus, R, I.
Who he is: Cadmus, 34, is a real estate attorney and businessman running for his first elective office. He and his wife, Tara, own Sweet Jenny’s Ice Cream in Williamsville and Oh Pour L’amour Du Chocolat in Snyder.
What he stands for: Agenda includes fostering small businesses and getting Amherst residents more involved in local government. Taxes and development have dominated the conversation this year, but Cadmus believes partisan politics and the lack of interaction between city and suburbs are two big issues.
What he said: “To me, the key is just reaching out to as many people as you can – and that’s the whole reason I ran.”
Patricia S. Dunne, D, C, WF.
Who she is: Dunne, 44, is another rookie politician but has been involved in town politics as a Democratic committee member for more than 15 years. She is a probation officer for Erie County.
What she stands for: Dunne said she’s knocked on more than 1,100 doors talking to residents about keeping Amherst safe, maintaining the quality of services and curbing uncontrolled growth in residential neighborhoods.
What she said: “I think the biggest message in this whole campaign has been residents who clearly want a Town Board that listens to them, and that was the main focus of my campaign.”
Ramona D. Popowich, D, C, WF.
Who she is: Popowich, 63, ran unsuccessfully for the Town Board four years ago.
She is past president of the Williamsville School Board, where she served from 2001 to 2010, and supervisor of teacher candidates at D’Youville College.
What she stands for: Like the other Democratic candidates, Popowich has campaigned on smart growth for Amherst, while raising concerns about tax breaks to developers and uncontrolled growth on neighborhoods and infrastructure.
What she said: “With the board being downsized, there’s going to be a heavier workload for Town Board members. I’m ready to take on those responsibilities.”
Steven Sanders, R, I.
Who he is: Sanders, 43, a council member since 2010, is running for a second term. He is a certified public accountant who owns a small firm and serves as an associate faculty member with the University of Phoenix.
What he stands for: The incumbent Sanders is part of the Republican slate running on its record of cutting taxes and controlling spending without reducing Amherst services.
What he said: “The bottom line is I think I’ve done a very good job over the past four years, and I’m hoping I earned the public’s support. I think our record on lowering taxes and maintaining services speaks for itself.”
Besides the supervisor and two council members, Amherst voters will choose between two candidates for Town Justice.
Kara A. Buscaglia, 35, is a former assistant district attorney now in private practice.
This is the first time Buscaglia is running for elective office and believes the biggest issue facing Amherst – in relation to Town Court – is at-risk youth and an increase in drug use among them. She cites her support of the many court treatment programs created to address the problem.
Buscaglia has the Democratic, Conservative, Independence and Working Family lines on the ballot.
Her opponent is Barbara S. Nuchereno, 52, an attorney whose term on the Amherst Town Board expires at the end of the year.
Nuchereno, a former law clerk in Family and State Supreme courts, believes her diverse legal background has prepared her to handle the wide variety of issues that arise in a community court like Amherst. She, too, believes it’s important to maintain those court treatment programs.
Nuchereno is on the ballot as a Republican.