When “Kathy from Williamsville” hosted a Saturday afternoon radio show on WBEN, she showed little sympathy for liberals, gun control advocates, abortion supporters or the media either.
Now Kathy Weppner, who over several years developed a loyal following of listeners, has set Rep. Brian Higgins in her sights. She officially launched her Republican candidacy against the five-term Democratic incumbent on Friday in – of course – Williamsville.
Backed by about 30 family members and supporters at Amherst Town Hall – many of them carrying signs demanding repeal of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s strict gun control law – Weppner said she asked herself a question while “watching our freedoms erode in front of us daily.”
“Can you really afford to not get involved this time?” she said she asked herself. “Are we going to stand by and watch the death of common sense?”
Weppner, 52, worked many years ago as an editor, writer and researcher at Channel 7 following journalism studies at St. Bonaventure and the University at Buffalo. But her biography says she concentrated on raising her five children and advocating various causes until her frequent calls to radio talk shows led to her own “Straight Talk with Kathy Weppner” radio from 2005 to 2012.
On Friday she emphasized that her distance from politics is exactly the kind of resume voters seek against “professional politicians.”
“Today we’re allowing the professional politicians and the media to divide us once again,” she said, blaming long time office holders like Higgins from creating “runaway government that is spending our country into economic ruin.”
“Politics is not rocket science,” she said. “As proof look at the Harvard-educated politicians in Washington right now who think you can spend what you do not have.”
Higgins holds a master’s degree from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.
Weppner used her announcement speech to label theories on global warning “highly questionable,” accuse the National Security Agency of monitoring the phone calls of ordinary Americans, and challenge the wisdom of providing education for illegal immigrants and prisoners.
Washington’s current policies, she said, is creating “a nation of compliant Stepford Americans.”
“I’m hoping we have a different kind of politics with my candidacy,” she said.
Higgins issued an email statement in reaction by outlining his enthusiasm for his post and pointing to his record.
“Our record of accomplishment on issues ranging from advocacy for Roswell Park Cancer Institute, to support for Amherst’s Main Street project, and work to redevelop the Buffalo and Niagara Falls waterfronts is driving positive momentum throughout the region,” he said. “There is still a great deal of work ahead of us and I am running for re-election to continue our fight for Western New York.”
The new candidate, who interviewed with party leaders for the vacancy created by the resignation of former Rep. Chris Lee in 2011, credited Higgins with “some good results” for his work on the waterfront. But she countered that progress in establishing new trails along Lake Erie fails to create new jobs or support families.
She is also expected to receive Conservative support, according to Erie County Chairman Ralph C. Lorigo.
Weppner was joined by Erie County Republican Chairman Nicholas A. Langworthy, and 2010 Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl P. Paladino – an outspoken Higgins opponent – in launching what she acknowledged will prove an underdog effort. Higgins holds a number of advantages centering around incumbency, a healthy campaign fund and an overwhelming Democratic advantage in enrollment.
Still, Langworthy described her as someone who brings “a fresh approach and real fight” to campaign.
“She’s never short for words,” Langworthy said in his introduction, “and always says what’s on her mind and her heart.”