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Democrats take 6-5 control of Erie County Legislature

It took only one seat for Republicans to lose control of the Erie County Legislature Tuesday night.

Republicans say they lost the Legislature and only squeaked to victory in some other races because of labor unions. They put on a big push against a state constitutional convention and those labor voters voted for Democratic candidates in other ballot races, especially in the Cheektowaga/Lancaster district where Democrat John Bruso beat out Republican incumbent Ted Morton in a tightly contested race.

"When a big item like that comes up, no matter what political affiliation, they're voting against it, you're bringing that volume of people out and jump on that Democratic line and voted right across and that's what they did," said current Legislature Chair John Mills. But the sheriff won, Kearns won and Mychajliw won."

A retired UPS worker, Bruso said he has a priority project.

"My first and my biggest project that I want to do is the opioid epidemic," he said. "When I was at UPS, my go-to charity was Kids Escaping Drugs. I've been there as a volunteer for 18 years and I really wanted to fight this battle from the inside out. So not the outside in."

As the death toll has continued to rise, opioids have become a priority focus in county government.

Between now and when Democrats take over January 1, legislators also have to work out a county budget for next year. Mills said it can be worked out.

"Depends on who the chair is on the other side of the aisle," Mills said. "Maybe it will be Tom Loughran. He won pretty good tonight. Tom and I are the only two legislators left from the Class of 2006. So Tom and I have a good relationship and, hopefully, we can mold a consensus."

Loughran, the Democratic Legislature leader, won another term. He again defeated Guy Marlette in the Amherst district, likely making Loughran chairman come January.

Loughran said he has been part of improving county finances and operations and will be working with Erie County Executive Poloncarz to continue that.

"It's even going to be greater tomorrow than it was today," Loughran said, "and I think the County Executive, Maria Whyte, myself, we came in in '06, the Red-Green Budget. We steadied our finances. We're now properly funding our arts and culturals. We're funding our libraries. We're beginning to modernize our Erie County Community College."

However, Mills cautioned that Poloncarz likes to spend money - something the Republican Majority Caucus held firm against.

Majority Leader Joseph Lorigo won a new term. He also cautioned against what he considers the County Executive's spending patterns. Lorigo told his GOP supporters he is there for the people.

"This was a race about issues and I tried to make the entire race about issues and my  record," Lorigo said, "and I think the voters heard it and they want checks and balances in county government and we are going to continue to provide those checks and balances for as long as I sit there."

While Lorigo is Majority Leader, he also is a registered Conservative - something that is even more important to Republicans because his father is Erie County Conservative Chair Ralph Lorigo and the races where the party did well were candidates with Conservative endorsement.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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