by Susan Mikula Campbell
Primary election day is Tuesday, so odds are that Wheatfield's two supervisor candidates won't be able to face off in an election debate before then, but both agree they'd consider the matter before November's election.
Current Supervisor Robert B. Cliffe, the endorsed candidate of the Wheatfield Republican Party, is being challenged in the Republican primary by newcomer Thomas J. Larson. Cliffe already holds the Independence and Conservative lines. Larson is in the primary for the Working Families line, where there also is an opportunity to ballot. He will run on the Democratic line in November.
Last week, Larson indicated he would like to debate Cliffe.
Cliffe, who is seeking his third two-year term, doubted a time and place could be set before the primary, but said "I would love to debate Tom any time, provided the group holding the debate is fair."
Larson had suggested the Niagara County Patriots group to hold the debate, but Cliffe pointed out he is a member of that group. Cliffe suggested the Wheatfield Republicans hold the debate, because the primary will decide who will hold the Republican line. With the primary so close, other groups are being suggested for an after-primary debate, such as the League of Women Voters.
"I would rather see it be a disinterested third party, because the Republican committee people are firmly behind Mr. Cliffe," said Larson, who is a registered Republican and a Republican committee member in the City of Niagara Falls. He said he decided to seek the Democratic line as well, since no one was running on that line, and collected the necessary signatures.
One issue likely to come up in a debate would be Larson's charge that the town has an unnecessary surplus.
Cliffe said his administration has focused on being conservative on spending and keeping costs down. Also, the town has not added any large projects requiring loans, so long-term borrowing is down.
"I was brought in about 4 years ago to improve the financial position of the town. We've gone from a very deep hole into a very good place," he said, adding that it would not be responsible budgeting to bring back unnecessary or unwarranted services that have been cut. "We believe that the surplus is right where it should be. ... Our goal is to produce a balanced budget each year and to provide the services which our residents wish to enjoy."
Larson said, "My reason (for) running is because I think the town can do better."
Larson said he has heard a lot of rumor and innuendo that he is the candidate of former supervisor Tim Demler and, that if he wins the election, he plans to offer Demler a position. "This is absolutely not true," he said.
Also on the primary ballot will be candidates for the two four-year Wheatfield Town Council seats. Incumbent Arthur W. Gerbec and Randy W. Retzlaff are in the Republican primary. Shirley J. Joy and Judy A. Blake are in the Democratic primary. Karen McKernan and Michael A. Kislack are in both the Democratic and Republican primaries.
Another Wheatfield resident on the primary ballot will be William L. Ross, Niagara County Legislature chairman and District 2 legislator. He's running on the Republican and Independence lines. Sean M. O'Laughlin is seeking the Republican line. There is an opportunity to ballot on the Independence and Working Families lines.
In the Town of Niagara, the only primary balloting will be for town councilman. Incumbent Marc M. Carpenter is on the Conservative, Independence and Working Families lines. Richard A. Sirianni is on the Conservative and Independence lines. There is an opportunity to ballot on the Conservative, Working Families, Independence and Green lines.
For a full list of primary races and polling places, go to www.elections.niagara.ny.us/.