CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WIVB) — The polls are set to open across Western New York in a matter of hours and one of the key races on Tuesday will be for Cheektowaga Town Supervisor.
The race features two current town councilmen: Michael Jasinski and Brian Nowak. The race has been contentious, with Nowak and Jasinski facing off on a variety of issues during town board meetings, including the asylum seeker crisis.
Jasinski also co-sponsored a resolution to censure Nowak, accusing him of misusing his political power. The resolution accused Nowak of bribing the town’s highway superintendent and using political power to stop the deputy highway superintendent from receiving any management position. It also said Nowak falsely accused a candidate for the town’s ethics board of flying a Confederate flag outside her home. She was not voted into the position. The resolution did not pass and Erie County District Attorney John Flynn found no evidence of criminal conduct.
Both candidates say they are ready to take over for current town supervisor Diane Benczkowski, who announced she would be stepping down at the end of her term. Benczkowski has held the seat since 2016.
“On day one, I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work,” Jasinski said. “The people of Cheektowaga deserve change. For far too long, this town has been going in the wrong direction. I’m the voice of the people. I’m the voice of change. I bring a fresh look, fresh ideas. I have the background and the resume to do it.”
“There’s a lot of responsibility and a lot of work that comes with the job,” Nowak said. “You need somebody there that is proven their ability to work with people, to lead and to check their personal agenda at the door and work for what’s best for the town.”
One of the many concerns of residents is the cost of living in the town and recurring tax assessments. Both candidates say they would make the town more affordable for the people who live there.
“We can’t possibly handle another tax assessment. Three years in a row, it’s really put a burden on the people,” Jasinski said.
“We need to address things like our residential tax rates. I think there are ways to lower those and make it more beneficial for residents,” Nowak stated.
Over the summer, Cheektowaga hotels began hosting asylum seekers, which caused controversy within the town. Supervisor Benczkowski said she was blindsided by the move by the New York City Mayor’s Office to send migrants to her town. The town board voted on a resolution to adopt a temporary restraining order to stop more asylum seekers from residing in town hotels. The town settled the matter in court, moving asylum seekers to a hotel in Amherst and to another hotel on Genesee St.
The candidates disagree on how to handle the issue moving forward. Nowak believes most residents are more concerned about what happens in their neighborhoods. Jasinski says the town should take a harder stance on the issue.
“I mean of course they are concerned about the migrant issue. I have that conversation with folks, but I think a lot of people see the board tried to take some action,” Nowak said.
“My opponent wants to make Cheektowaga a sanctuary town and it’s up to me to put a halt to that. January 1 I’ll put us in a state of emergency to halt that,” Jasinski added.
Nowak says those claims are not true.
No matter the outcome of the race, the other candidate will keep his seat on the town board for the rest of his term. The vacant seat could then be filled.
Three other council seats are open during this election cycle.
Democrat incumbents Linda Hammar and Jerry Kaminski are seeking another term against Democrat Kenneth Young and Republicans Vern Thompson, Eileen Ebner and Barbara Bakowski. Councilwoman Christine Adamczyk is not seeking another term.
Polls open in Erie County at 6 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 7. They close at 9 p.m. To find your nearest polling place, click here.
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Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native and Emmy-nominated reporter who joined the News 4 team in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.