Monday, November 04, 2013


There are years when there are Presidential elections, when the nation pays attention to every detail of the campaign. There's an off-year election two years later (or earlier), when we elect some national representatives as well as some state and local ones. And then there are the off-off-year elections, in which hardly anything happens.

Welcome to the 2013 off-off-year election. The golf tour has a name for its end-of-the-year events about this time. The golfers call it "the silly season," because there are a variety of odd little closed tournaments that offer plenty of money for not-so-much work. The politicians could use the same phrase to times like this.

However, the sense of the absurd certainly does help in looking at the races of the moment. The odd local campaigns would get overlooked with a Presidential race looming. We have two examples here in Western New York that are obvious; I'm sure there are others.

The oddest situation concerns the battle for Erie County Sheriff race. This usually is not a position of interest to most people. As I recall, most people in my generation only paid attention in the Seventies when the office-holder used to brag about how many drug busts there were after concerts at then-Rich Stadium. They rushed to the polls that off-off-year in order to kick him out of the job.

This time, Republican Tim Howard currently has the job. The Sheriff's office has had some problems during his time there, such as escapes and suicides. But even more oddly, Howard announced that he wasn't exactly in a hurry to enforce the SAFE Act on gun control in Erie County because it wasn't constitutional. Who knew that the Sheriff was also a Supreme Court judge who only paid attention to laws he liked?

When Dick Dobson defeated Bert Dunn by a whisker in the Democratic primary, it was easy to wonder what might happen in the two-man main election. But Dunn formed his own political  party, got out the family checkbook, and is running on a third-party line. He's spending plenty of money on ads; well, it is his money. There's always something of a spoil-sport strategy to that tactic, because of the risk of splitting the vote of one party and guaranteeing a victory by the other party's candidate.

There's not much polling out there about a Sheriff's race, so it will be fun to see who wins the election for the county's top Constitutional expert ... I mean cop.

There's the Erie County Comptroller's race. The office is filled two years before and after the County Executive race. I haven't done any research on this, but it seems like the Comptroller usually is from the opposing party than the County Executive. The Comptroller's biggest job seems to be to shake his or head sadly when discussing the fiscal policies of the County Executive.

The person in the job is Republican Stefan Mychajliw, perhaps best known as a local television reporter. But his opponent is the more interesting case. Democrat Kevin Gaughan has spent a lot of his free time over the past few years trying to cut down on New York State's many layers of local government.

However, he probably should have looked at the incoming mail when he was doing all that pro bono work. Gaughan had a good-sized tax debt to the Internal Revenue Service - well, $22,000 is good-sized to me - which he blamed when he paying attention to his ill mother. The Republicans quickly jumped on the issue, asking the question - if a guy can't pay his taxes, should he be trusted to worry about an entire's county finances. Gaughan criticized the "party bosses" for taking that stand.

The Buffalo News - my employer, for the record - started its endorsement editorial by saying neither candidate would be chosen by a company to watch over its finances. It opted to essentially hold its nose and endorse Gaughan.

There are plenty of other races out there that will be decided Tuesday, but most of them figure to be called by the experts at about 9:02 p.m. Can't wait to see how these two turned out, though.

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