CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WIVB) — As Democrat Brian Nowak declares victory in the tight race between himself and Michael Jasinski, the current Town Supervisor says it’s too early for celebrations.
Diane Benczkowski has served in Cheektowaga’s top seat since 2016, but is retiring at the end of her current term. She says the closeness of the Supervisor race, where 47 votes separate Nowak and Jasinski, a Republican, is “a true example of times changing.”
“I still believe in the electoral process, and no one should be declaring victory until every last vote is counted,” Benczkowski said. “I’m actually surprised that Brian Nowak would be declaring victory at this point. It’s something I would never do without the final vote announced.”
It hasn’t been a friendly race between the two councilmen, with Jasinski and Benczkowski recently attempting to censure Nowak, who was accused of bribing the town’s highway superintendent.
The status of asylum seekers has also been a contentious point in this year’s elections, with the controversial issue dividing Democrats and Republicans in Cheektowaga since the arrival of dozens of migrants there in June.
Nowak, in his statement declaring victory Wednesday morning, said he wanted to “congratulate Jerry Kaminski along with all the other Democratic council candidates on a hard-fought and well-run race,” but did not offer congratulations to Republicans running in Cheektowaga’s races.
Benczkowski called Tuesday a “nail-biting night,” noting that Cheektowaga’s town board looks to be split half-Republican, half-Democrat.
“When I first entered politics back in 2007, the Democrats always won all Cheektowaga races by a landslide,” she said. “It’s interesting to see the tides are changing and it is showing the town of Cheektowaga is becoming more bi-partisan.”
Benczkowski says in recent decades, Republicans have been in the minority when it comes to the Town Board. There have never been three on the board at the same time over the last 30 years, she tells us.
“Before Jasinski, Angela Wozniak was the lone Republican council member on the board from approximately 2012 to 2015,” Benczkowski said. “Before Wozniak, Dick Solecki was the lone Republican council member. We could be making history here in Cheektowaga.”
Wednesday morning, UB political science professor Shawn Donahue joined us on Wake Up! to discuss these changes in the political climate.
Like Benczkowski, Donahue said Cheektowaga has historically leaned toward the left but has turned into more of a “swing” region in recent years.
With Cheektowaga’s bipartisan shift and the election results as close as they are, Donahue says late-arriving and affidavit ballots could be the deciding factor in the race for Town Supervisor, in which nearly 18,000 votes have been counted thus far.
The latest election results can be found here.