There’s been a shift in the Erie County Legislature.
Kevin Hardwick, a longtime Republican, says he’s moving across the aisle to join with the Democratic caucus — which already holds a slim majority.
Hardwick, an associate professor of political science at Canisius College and radio host, knows that he’s ruffling some feathers.
Some are accusing him of selling out.
“In terms of the whole sell out thing, that’s part of the reason I’m leaving,” said Hardwick, whose district includes Grand Island and the Tonawandas.
Starting next year, Hardwick says he’ll be joining the Democratic caucus in the legislature — and will soon change his party affiliation.
“I want to be in a caucus where compromise is not equated with selling out, and where it’s okay to talk to the other party without being accused of treason,” he said.
Hardwick has been known as a maverick, crossing the party aisle on some key votes. Recently, he joined with the Democratic caucus in approving a county budget for next year.
“Because of what I’m doing and because of what I did in the budget by doing the right thing, I’ve almost guaranteed myself of not only a general election opponent, but they’ll find someone to run against me in the Democratic primary,” Hardwick tells News 4. “So, I’ve made my life a lot more difficult.”
Joseph Lorigo, a Conservative who serves as the Minority Leader in the legislature, say Hardwick’s decision to move across the aisle it’s not a complete surprise.
“Kevin has always done whatever benefits Kevin the most. He’s not really a Republican, not really a Democrat. He belongs to the party of Kevin Hardwick whose only principles and platform are what can personally benefit Kevin Hardwick the most,” Lorigo said.
The hits also came from Erie County Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy who accused Hardwick of selling out.
“He’s got a pattern of that…where he will go and listen to everything that his colleagues want to put on the table, leave the room and then go do his own thing,” Langworthy said. “And, honestly, we can’t have that. That’s not teamwork. That’s not how you legislate. It’s really a betrayal of your colleague’s trust.”
Langworthy tweeted out earlier Tuesday that Hardwick’s move to the other side comes as no surprise after his “many secret meetings and back room deals with Mark Poloncarz…”
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz released a statement concerning Hardwick’s decision to join with Democrats in the legislature.
“While he and I did not discuss his decision to leave the minority caucus prior to his announcing it, I am certain that as a lifelong Republican it was not an easy decision for him to make,” the statement read.
“No secret political “deals” were made, no nefarious “quid pro quos” took place, just a small group of individuals who were willing to work weekends and evenings together to hash out a fiscally prudent budget,” Poloncarz stated.
Others like Republican John Mills, said it was “long overdue” that Hardwick leave the caucus.
“He’s anti-SAFE act, anti-Cuomo, pro-Trump and pro-life. I’m not really sure how that fits with the Democratic caucus’s values, but I guess we’ll find out,” Mills stated.
Republican Edward Rath said Hardwick’s “political ideology has often been known to shift depending on what benefits him personally.”
“He’ll spin this as him being some type of compromising maverick, that’s laughable,” said Rath.
Hardwick says while he expected this type of response, he’s confident it’s the right move.
“I’m a grown man. This is not student council. This is not cliques. This is not a gang. We are not the Sharks and the Jets. But that’s what it’s devolved to and it’s so silly. And this move for me is very necessary,” Hardwick said.