The last time Erie County Legislator Timothy R. Hogues and former Legislature Chairwoman Barbara Miller-Williams had a matchup was in November 2011.
As contenders for the First District Legislature seat, they will face off again in Tuesday’s Democratic primary, only with Hogues as the incumbent this time and Miller-Williams as the challenger. It’s a contentious race that also pits two rival factions of the local Democratic Party in a pitched battle for control of the Legislature.
Hogues, 41, who severely reduced his hours as operations manager at a local manufacturing plant to devote his energies to the Legislature full time, is the party headquarters’ pick.
Miller-Williams, 57, a retired Buffalo police officer and former Buffalo Common Council member, said she was denied a chance to run on the Democratic ballot in 2011 after angering party leaders during her last stint as Legislature chairwoman. At the time, she said, she was accused of selling out her Democratic colleagues by joining forces with former Republican County Executive Chris Collins.
Miller-Williams vehemently denies that charge.
“I never had an opportunity to get voted back into office, because there was no primary,” Miller-Williams said. “When November came around, I had to do a write-in on the Community First line.”
That enabled Hogues, then a political newcomer, to ascend to the newly drawn First District seat where, with mentoring from current Legislature Chairwoman Betty Jean Grant, he has been directing his focus to the county’s role in promoting education, health care and public safety. Hogues said that also included the restoration of funding for public libraries and cultural institutions, which were threatened when his opponent was at the helm of the Legislature.
“When she was the chairperson of the Legislature, we lost a lot of funding for the libraries, the cultural programs, the Prime Time program (for youth) and rodent control. So, with me coming in, partnering with Chairwoman Betty Jean Grant, we were able to restore a lot of those things and fully fund them,” Hogues said.
Miller-Williams, who says the Hogues campaign has distorted her record, said she fought the same fight while in office. Despite allegations that she gave the minority Republicans in the Legislature a de facto majority by siding with them, Miller-Williams insisted she voted in lockstep with her Democratic colleagues “over 99.2 percent of the time.”
“There were just factions within the Democratic Party which literally created dysfunctions that I didn’t create,” she added. “But folks tended to heap it on my shoulders, as if I created it, and it was all my doing. It was not.”
If she is again elected to the Legislature, Miller-Williams said, she would like to promote the expansion of outreach programs for critical county services.
Hogues, if re-elected, is looking forward to helping the administration of County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz promote the opening of a one-stop health clinic at 1500 Broadway, which is set to open in January. Keeping a laser focus on what the county can do to increase health care access, bolster educational support services and promote public safety will help change the fortunes of the region, he said.
“If you marry those together, you start an economic explosion. We’re going to see more individuals that are employed, more individuals that are employable and less individuals out there in the streets committing these crimes,” said Hogues, who also is running on the Working Families Party line in Tuesday’s primary.
The Legislature’s 1st District encompasses vast stretches of the city’s East and Lower West sides.