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Line Forming for County Clerk's job

By Joyce Kryszak

Buffalo, NY – There's a bit of a line forming for the job overseeing Erie County's auto bureaus. At least four people are vying for the special appointment to replace County Clerk David Swarts.

It was an honor for a Western New Yorker to be tapped by the new governor to head the state's department of motor vehicles. And it is an opportunity for another Western New Yorker to fill the vacancy it created.

Four have already stepped forward: Deputy County Clerk Kathy Hochul, civic leader Kevin Gaughan, Buffalo Common Councilman Rich Fontana and County legislator Tom Mazur.

Governor Eliot Spitzer will make an appointment after a recommendation from Erie County Democratic party leaders.

Erie County Democratic Party Chairman Len Lenihan said it is a big responsibility and a big decision.

Lenihan said all the candidates are qualified. But Hochul and Gaughan are considered by some political observers as the top contenders.

Hochul believes she has an advantage since she has served as deputy clerk for three and a half years and is currently the acting Clerk. Hochul said this is a job that requires skill - not politics.

But politics is a factor. By County Charter, the post must be filled by a Democrat, because the outgoing Clerk is a Democrat.

Ultimately, however, whoever is appointed will have to run for election in November.

And that could give Gaughan an edge.

He has run for a number of public offices and, recently bowed out gracefully from the state senate primary when the party backed another candidate.

Gaughan said the time is right for his long standing platform on reform.

Lenihan said a screening committee will begin evaluating all the candidates in a couple of weeks. He said the Party hopes to make a recommendation to the governor by month's end.

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