Dems Have Outside Chance To Retake Legislature
With more than half of all legislative districts in Chautauqua County uncontested for the November election, it is still technically possible for the Democrats to take control from the Republican party. Realistically, the party has a better shot to take away the super majority control Republicans have now — but even that isn’t a given.
Currently 14 of 19 legislators are Republicans. By having at least 13 legislators, Republicans have a super-majority, which means they don’t need any Democratic support for any legislation.
In November, eight of the 19 districts will have a challenger. Democrats will need to win at least seven of the eight races to control the legislature, none of which are open seats. If they win at least two of the races, they will take away the super-majority control by the Republican party. Six of the eight contested races are currently held by Republican legislators and two are held by Democratic legislators, one of which has no Republican challenger.
One of the races has two registered Democrats running, so Democrats will keep that seat no matter what. In District 4, Susan Parker of Fredonia defeated Fredonia incumbent Christine Starks in the June primary to become the endorsed Democratic candidate. Starks, however, still has the Working Families Party and will be on the ballot in November. District 4 covers a portion of the village of Fredonia.
Another twist is in the 18th District. Bill Ward of Mayville is a registered Republican. In the June primary he lost the line to Martin J. Proctor of Findley Lake.
Proctor was previously a county legislator, filling the remainder of the term of David Himelein, who passed away in 2019. He lost to Ward that year when Ward had secured both the Democratic and Republican lines and Proctor ran on the Cornerstone line. Ward had previously secured the Democratic line and was again seeking to be the endorsed candidate by both parties. Ward also has the Working Families line, while Proctor has the Conservative line. Ward has not said if he wins if he will continue to caucus with the Republicans or join the Democrats. District 18 includes the towns of Mina, Sherman and a portion of the town of Chautauqua, including the village of Mayville.
In District 16, there are three candidates running for the seat. John Davis of Frewsburg is the incumbent. He has the Republican and Conservative lines. He is being challenged by Dustin Carvella who is the endorsed candidate of the Democratic and Working Families. Meanwhile, Gerrit Cain is running on the Libertarian line. Cain is the secretary of the county Libertarian Party. This is the only district that has a Libertarian candidate. District 16 includes the towns of Poland, Carroll and Kiantone.
In District 11, Robert Whitney is running for re-election. He is endorsed by the Democratic and Working Families parties. He is being challenged by David Wilfong, who is endorsed by the Republican and Conservative lines. This is a rematch of sorts. Wilfong defeated Whitney in 2013 for the seat. Wilfong stepped down from the seat when he ran for Jamestown mayor, but eventually lost to Eddie Sunquist. District 11 covers a portion of the city of Jamestown.
In District 12, which is mostly in the city of Jamestown, along with a small portion in the town of Ellicott, incumbent Elisabeth Rankin is being challenged by Heather Fagan. Rankin is running on the Republican and Conservative lines while Fagan is running on the Democratic line.
In District 8, Pierre Chagnon of Bemus Point is being challenged by Scott Humble. Chagnon, who is the legislature chairman, is running for re-election on the Republican and Conservative lines, while Humble is running on the Democratic line. District 8 covers the towns of North Harmony and Ellery.
In District 3, Bob Scutter of Fredonia is being challenged by Robert Dando. Scutter is running on the Republican and Conservative lines while Dando is running on the Democratic and Working Families lines. District 3 includes a portion of the village of Fredonia and the rest of the town of Pomfret.
In District 1, Kevin Muldowney of Dunkirk is being challenged by Marcus Buchanan. Muldowney is running on the Republican line while Buchanan is running on the Democratic and Working Families lines. District 1 includes a portion of the city and West Town of Dunkirk.
There is a guarantee for at least two new faces, one of which is already serving.
Mark Odell is the only candidate listed for District 7. Odell, who is running on the Republican and Conservative lines, resigned from his seat in August after taking a new professional position in Florida. After Odell resigned, the Republican committees of Stockton, Portland, and District 4 of the town of Chautauqua selected Johnathan Penhollow of Stockton to take Odell’s place. He was sworn into office in August. Because of when Odell resigned, it was too late to get any new names on the ballot. In November, should Odell be re-elected, it is expected he will either decline the position or be found ineligible to be sworn in and then Penhollow would continue until the end of 2022. In November next year, Penhollow will need to run for a one-year term if he wants to keep the seat.
Meanwhile, Democrat Chuck Nazzaro of Jamestown has decided not to run for re-election for District 9, which covers the south end of the city. Billy Torres, also a Democrat, is running for the seat unopposed.
Of the 11 legislators who are running unopposed, eight are Republicans and three are Democrats. Along with Odell, Republicans running unopposed include: Terry Niebel of Sheridan for District 5; Thomas Harmon of Silver Creek for District 6; Ken Lawton of Lakewood for District 10; Dan Pavlock of Sinclairville for District 14; Lisa Vanstrom of West Ellicott for District 15; Jay Gould of Ashville for District 17; and John Hemmer of Westfield for District 19.
Along with Torres, Democrats who are running unopposed include: Robert Bankoski of Dunkirk for District 2 and Paul Whitford of Jamestown for District 13.
This year’s elections are set for Tuesday, Nov. 2. Seats are for two years. The legislature will need to have the districts redrawn following the 2020 Census results before the next election in 2023.