Nick Forster, the Niagara County Democratic Party Chairman, is busy recruiting candidates to challenge what he calls the Republican stranglehold in Niagara County.
Although Democrats have a slight edge in county voters overall, the Republicans have for the last decade been dominant at the polls. Twelve of the 15 current county legislators are Republican and the cities of North Tonawanda and Lockport have elected Republican mayors and councils, despite significant Democratic enrollment advantages.
Indeed the super majority in the county legislature has created a virtual one-party rule of county government.
Forster had nothing to do with this, as he only returned as county chairman last November after a ten-year absence. When he left, elected officials in the county fairly mirrored the close Democratic and Republican voting demographic in the county. And the nostalgia factor - recalling the good old Forster days when Democrats and Republicans were about evenly matched - had a hand in his recent election among Democrats.
During his absence, the Democrats were simply and painfully destroyed, primarily through the masterful efforts of that local mastermind of politics, State Sen. George Maziarz, the acknowledged and undisputed leader of the GOP in Niagara County.
Forster said he is up to the challenge and plans to field a candidate for every office and is looking for public-spirited Democrats who want to be part of the political process.
"I have three conditions," Forster said of a prospective candidate. "That they support smaller government and lower taxes, that they want to challenge the one-party system of the Republican-controlled county and that they support local labor doing local work."
Forster said he opposes the practice of cross endorsements, whereby party bosses collaborate to deny the people their right to vote for a member of their own political party in return for a like favor from the opposing party boss.
For example, Forster said that his predecessor routinely made deals with the Republican Chairman not to run an opponent against Republican candidates in return for the Republicans not running anyone for office against one of the few Democratic elected officials in the county.
In one such deal, made between the two party chairmen, the Democrats did not field an opponent for District Attorney Mike Violante, while the Republicans agreed not to field a candidate against County Treasurer Kyle Andrews. Both officials ran unopposed in their last election.
While it might sound cute, this ugly back room dealing deprives the people of the right to vote and to choose elected officials.
For this year, Forster is focused on the 15 county legislator races and he said he has some "quality" candidates in mind, but would like to interview more. He said he will also field candidates for supervisors, town and village boards, and even a judicial seat which is expected to crop up this year.
A word to the Republican legislators who for so long have dominated the county government?
"Don't take Mr. Summer off." Forster said.
If you are interested in running for office, contact Forster at firstname.lastname@example.org