County Becomes A Sea Of Red

County government will have a decidedly red tint to it after voters chose 13 Republican legislators, a Republican executive and a Republican clerk in Tuesday’s elections.

County Executive Greg Edwards called it “a Republican tsunami,” as it put Chautauqua County in a sea of red on a map dotted with blue in portions of both Dunkirk and Jamestown.

Former legislator Vince Horrigan won 55.88 percent of the votes against Ron Johnson for county executive, while fellow Republican Larry Barmore won 55 percent of the votes against Democratic candidate Lori Cornell to take County Clerk Sandy Sopak’s seat.

As for the new, downsized Chautauqua County Legislature, three new faces and two former legislators will join 14 incumbents in Mayville in January.

Thirteen Republicans and six Democrats will make up the downsized group of 19 rather than 25. Legislators from both parties are ready to take their seats.

“We’ve already started speaking amongst ourselves,” said Ron Lemon, R-Frewsburg, of the Republican supermajority after winning the new District 16 seat on Tuesday. “My goal is, let’s make sure we use this supermajority to benefit the property owners and the taxpayers.”

Lemon served on the legislature from 2008-10.

“This is the first time to my knowledge that either party has a two-thirds majority,” said former County Attorney Fred Larson, D-Jamestown, the winner in the new District 12, which covers portions of Lakewood and Busti. “There are dangers for the majority party in feeling that it does not need the legislators from the other party to help govern.”

Larson served as a legislator from 1985-93.

“I agree with voters who see the Chautauqua County Legislature as way too partisan (of) a body,” Larson said, adding, “I would rather see the legislature get together for some work sessions during the year, nonvoting work sessions rather than so much of the business of the legislature being conducted in party caucuses.”

Larson hopes to become well-acquainted with the other legislators, as many of them are new since his last term.

“Hopefully the other 18 legislators, regardless of party, will want to know what my opinion is on legislation and legal issues,” Larson said.

“We are going to be a team of 19,” Janet Keefe, D-Fredonia, said of the new legislature. “I think that as long as we all work for the betterment of the people of the county, it doesn’t matter what party you’re in.”

Keefe is the representative for the new District 4, which covers the east side of the village of Fredonia and includes SUNY Fredonia as well. Tuesday’s election was her first.

“My campaign went very well. I was very pleased and I worked very hard. I am excited and I’m nervous. I really want to get to work.”

Keefe added that one of her goals within the legislature is to bring jobs to Chautauqua County.

“I think that’s the most important thing right now,” she said. “I don’t sit back. I’m more of a doer. I want to know facts before I do anything.”

“I’m really excited about the downsizing and the opportunity to be a part of this new group,” incumbent Bob Scudder, R-Fredonia, said of his new District 3 seat, which covers half of Fredonia and almost all of Pomfret.

“I was so excited,” Scudder said of his win. “It wasn’t about beating William Coughlin (former District 25 legislator). It was about winning the election so I could continue to serve the people. I’m excited. I think we can get some things accomplished. I’m ready. Let’s go.”

Along with Keefe and Larson, Democratic legislators will include incumbents Keith Ahlstrom, D-Dunkirk, in District 1; Shaun Heenan, D-Dunkirk, in District 2; Chuck Nazzaro, D-Jamestown, in District 9; and Paula DeJoy, D-Jamestown, in District 13.

Along with Scudder and Lemon, Republican legislators include Terry Niebel, R-Sheridan, in District 5; George Borrello, R-Irving, in District 6; John Runkle, R-Stockton, in District 7; Pierre Chagnon, R-Bemus Point, in District 8; PJ Wendel, R-Lakewood, in District 10; David Wilfong, R-Jamestown, in District 11; Mark Tarbrake, R-Jamestown, in District 14; Lisa Vanstrom, R-West Ellicott, in District 15; Jay Gould, R-Ashville, in District 17; David Himelein, R-Findley Lake, in District 18; and John Hemmer, R-Westfield, in District 19.