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It’s doubtful that any $1.4-billion-a-year business would hire as comptroller either of Erie County’s candidates, Republican incumbent Stefan I. Mychajliw and Democrat Kevin P. Gaughan. But because we feel the need to endorse in this critical race, we give a thin edge to Gaughan.

Voters know both men well.

Mychajliw is probably best known for his earlier work as a television reporter. He touts his reporting on the infamous red budget/green budget debacle in 2006 as helping to prepare him for his current office. Following his news career, Mychajliw launched into public relations, first with the Buffalo School District and then as owner of a public relations firm. He also worked on now-Rep. Chris Collins’ last campaign for county executive.

But Mychajliw’s image as a self-promoter who is preparing for higher office is inescapable. The image is burnished every time he criticizes even the tiniest action of the county executive and ensures the media is there to cover it. Mychajliw trumpets that he hasn’t called news conferences to discuss his findings, but he’s not shy about alerting the media at the same times he sends his findings to county government.

Gaughan is also not shy about seeking his share of media attention over the years. His is a record of understanding local government, explaining it to citizens and working as a private citizen on causes he believes will serve the people. He has stood against the political machine, including the Democratic one that has reluctantly endorsed him.

Still Gaughan, an attorney and perennial candidate – he ran for mayor in 2005, State Senate in 2006 and Assembly last year – admits that he is not a perfect candidate. And he’s right. The man who wants to run Erie County’s finances ran up a $28,000 tax debt to the IRS. To his credit, he contacted the federal government and entered into a voluntary payment plan, which he just completed. The most troubling part of Gaughan’s IRS problem isn’t that he owed the money – many people end up working with the IRS to pay off a big bill – it’s the fact that he divulged the amount he owed only this week.

The role of comptroller requires the utmost transparency. Gaughan should deliver nothing less, and we believe he has learned his lesson.

Again, each candidate has his flaws. But because of his record of public service, we favor Gaughan.