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The annual ritual of filing designating petitions to qualify for the electoral ballot is nearing completion for 2013, and the thousands of signatures collected reveal a strong field of County Legislature candidates that could dominate the coming campaign season.

“It’s certainly very hot,” Erie County Republican Chairman Nicholas A. Langworthy said of the legislative contests. “We have real candidates with a path to victory.”

“Yes, it’s going to be a battleground,” added Langworthy’s Democratic counterpart, Jeremy J. Zellner.

Democrats now control the County Legislature by a 6 to 5 tally, with many observers predicting a feverish battle for the majority in 2014.

The mayoral contest in Buffalo is now official too as Democrat Bernard Tolbert filed to challenge incumbent Democrat Byron W. Brown, who also has Conservative, Working Families and Independence party backing. Sergio R. Rodriguez filed as the GOP candidate.

Party contests must first set the scene before the Nov. 5 general election, and the Legislature will feature several contests in the Sept. 10 primary. They include a return effort by former Chairwoman Barbara Miller-Williams against incumbent Timothy R. Hogues in District 1, and Joyce Nixon against incumbent Betty Jean Grant in District 2. Both will be Democratic primaries.

Grant will also have the Working Families line on the ballot. Nixon received an authorization from the state Independence Party, according to officials at the Erie County Board of Elections, but they were unsure as to whether she circulated required petitions to qualify for the ballot.

Another lively contest is shaping up in District 7, where Democrats Richard A. Zydel, Patrick B. Burke and Lynn M. Dearmyer are vying for the seat of retiring incumbent Thomas J. Mazur in the heavily Democratic district. Zydel will be the Conservative candidate, while Elias A. Farah filed on the Republican and Independence lines.

In District 8, Wesley S. Moore will challenge Wynnie L. Fisher for the Democratic nod, while an Independence primary is shaping up between Republican Ted B. Morton and Sean M. Nowicki. Moore is also the Working Families candidate.

In general election contests, Republican Jennifer P. Stergion filed to run against incumbent Democrat Lynn M. Marinelli in District 3. Stergion will also run on the Conservative and Independence lines, while Marinelli has the Working Families line.

Incumbent Republican Kevin R. Hardwick will also run on the Conservative and Independence lines against William C. Conrad III of the Democratic and Working Families parties in District 4.

A much anticipated contest is now official in District 5, where incumbent Democrat Thomas A. Loughran will face Republican Robert N. Anderson, the Amherst highway superintendent. But Christopher J. Fellows will challenge Loughran for the Conservative nod, while Anderson has Independence.

“It’s our premier match-up,” Langworthy said in a reference to the importance of the race in the GOP effort to take over control of the Legislature.

In District 6, Democrat Alan K. Getter will challenge incumbent Republican Edward A. Rath III, who also has Conservative and Independence backing.

In District 9, Independence incumbent Lynne M. Dixon will be challenged by Michael R. Schraft on the Democratic and Working Families lines. Dixon will have the Republican and Conservative lines, while Brian F. Burke has filed to challenge her for the Independence line.

Democrat Lauren M. Gray, with Working Families backing, filed to challenge Conservative incumbent Joseph C. Lorigo in District 10. Lorigo will also run on the GOP and Independence lines.

Gray, however, faces a primary challenge from Robert C. Hauger, who filed by mail on Monday. Zellner blamed the new intraparty challenge on Democratic forces seeking to remove him from the chairmanship.

“It’s the same old folks working with the Republicans and Conservatives to tear down the Democratic Party here,” he said.

Republican Minority Leader John J. Mills will run without opposition in District 11.

In countywide contests, Democrats are expected to name political activist Kevin P. Gaughan to a vacancy on the comptroller ballot later this week to challenge Republican incumbent Stefan I. Mychajliw. The incumbent also filed on the Conservative and Independence lines, though Independence member Anthony Dorazio Jr. filed for that line late Monday.

For sheriff, the expected Democratic primary appears assured between Richard E. Dobson Sr. and Bert D. Dunn, with incumbent Republican Timothy B. Howard also on the Conservative and Independence lines. Dunn is backed by Working Families.

A major contest is shaping up for Family Court, as judicial candidates are allowed to file in all parties. Democrats will feature Mary Giallanza Carney, Joseph T. Jarzembek, Paul V. Crapsi Jr. and Deanne M. Tripi.

Carney and Tripi will compete for the GOP and Conservative lines. They will be joined by Crapsi on Working Families and Independence.

Surrogate Judge Barbara Howe, a Democrat, is unopposed.

The ballots for the primary and general elections may not be finalized for several weeks during a period when challenges to petition signatures may be lodged.

email: rmccarthy@buffnews.com