Editor’s note: This editorial is part of a series endorsing candidates for a number of offices. These endorsements by the editorial board are intended to aid voters in their evaluations of those seeking office. Whether you agree or disagree with our recommendations, we urge you to vote and take part in our electoral process.
The Buffalo News is making endorsements in these four races for Erie County Legislature.
Two competent and qualified candidates are seeking this seat: incumbent Democrat Thomas A. Loughran and his Republican challenger, Town of Amherst Highway Superintendent Robert N. Anderson. In the end, though, Loughran has shown himself to be an independent and thoughtful steward of his constituents’ tax dollars. He deserves election to a fifth term.
Loughran is a former member of the Amherst Town Board and is the longtime owner of Loughran’s Bar & Restaurant in Snyder. Anderson has been highway superintendent and touts his ability to lower the department’s $26 million budget by $2 million.
Here’s where Loughran made his mark in his most recent term in office: He sided with Republicans in opposing the plan of County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz to raise county taxes. The vote was 6-5, so his presence mattered. Whether anyone thinks the tax increase was justified or not, Loughran showed that he has the kind of backbone that legislators need.
Anderson says it’s not enough to hold the line on taxes; he wants to cut them. It’s a noble goal, but Loughran did what was possible by crossing his own party. There is no reason to think Anderson wouldn’t be similarly strong, but voters already know that Loughran is. They have no reason to trade him in.
This became a difficult race to call with the revelation that the Republican candidate for this open seat, Ted B. Morton, violated ethical rules as a financial planner by borrowing money from his clients between 2009 and 2012. For that infraction, the Financial Industry Regulatory Agency fined him $5,000 and suspended him from acting as a financial planner for six months.
His employer, LPL Financial, fired him. He mentioned none of this in his campaign or during an interview with the News editorial board.
This is an egregious violation that should disqualify Morton from public office, at least for now. We cannot endorse him, even though he is, in other ways, the better candidate, having more experience and a surer sense of the task at hand.
With some misgivings, then, we endorse the Democratic candidate in this race, Wynnie Fisher, a first-time candidate whose heart is in the right place but who lacks a clear sense of what the job entails. Fisher is a former middle school teacher now working as a field experience coordinator at SUNY Buffalo State. She is also chairman of Alden’s Democratic committee, but has never held elective office.
Fisher frets in speaking about the Legislature that she may be “naive” about some issues and, in fact, she probably is. She seems to have made little effort to research the county budget. She doesn’t know what she might do to avoid a tax increase, for example, but notes that “there’s got to be some place where something can be shifted or changed.” It would be better for voters if she knew where, going in.
Still, given the circumstances, Fisher is the only possible choice. We think she has it in her to grow in the job. We hope she does.
Incumbent Lynne M. Dixon, I-Hamburg, touts her independence in the Legislature, although she’s a reliable vote for the Republican caucus. Still, she is a level-headed, thoughtful lawmaker and a generally calming influence.
She has demonstrated some independence in the past, voting against Republican County Executive Chris Collins’ plan to reduce funding for libraries.
Democratic hopeful Michael R. Schraft also lives in Hamburg and is pursuing a doctorate in political science at the University at Buffalo. He says the blue-collar district needs a blue-collar legislator working to attract jobs and economic development.
Schraft says that Dixon has not pushed hard enough to improve the district’s roads, but she joined Republicans in urging Poloncarz to spend another $1 million on roads this year, a request he ignored.
Dixon has worked with Democrats on the local, state and federal levels. She is the kind of legislator the county needs.
A young Conservative freshman is being challenged by a younger Democratic opponent in this race. Both bring enthusiasm and focus to this campaign, but the incumbent, Joseph Lorigo, has the edge. He merits re-election.
Lorigo, 31, is a lawyer when he’s not on duty in the Legislature. He is especially proud of blocking the tax increase proposed last year by Poloncarz and of his support for first responders. He is tentative about his support for the new lease for the Bills, but notes that the team is important to Buffalo and, more than that, that his constituents wanted the deal. He says he would have voted no if his constituents leaned that way.
It’s a respectful approach, to be sure, but it isn’t necessarily leadership. We hope Lorigo is also capable of looking out for the county and his district, even if some voters don’t agree with him.
Democrat Lauren Gray, 26, is also from the legal world. She is a recent graduate of the University at Buffalo Law School, where she studied tax and contract law. Her main focus is on road and bridge maintenance in the district, a subject also of concern to Lorigo.
She also wants to focus on improving the county’s Department of Social Services in the aftermath of the killing of 5-year-old Eain Brooks.
Gray says she wants always to be involved in politics, and that’s good news for anyone who cares about attracting young and capable people into public service. If she loses, we hope Gray will continue to explore opportunities to serve; she clearly has the temperament and intellect for it. With a little more seasoning, she could be a formidable candidate.