MAYVILLE - On the heels of Dick Babbage's announcement that he won't be seeking re-election to Legislature District 17, The Post-Journal sought to size up the rest of the body's coming races last week.
Along with Babbage, R-Bemus Point, two other sitting legislators have decided not to seek re-election this fall - Doug Richmond, R-Westfield, and Fredonia Democrat John Gullo.
Of the 22 other sitting legislators, a total of 19 confirmed that they intend to run again, two said they were undecided and one could not be reached by The Post-Journal.
Jamestown Democrat Vickeye James could not be reached for comment while Maria Kindberg, also a Jamestown Democrat, said she is not prepared to announce anything publicly yet. Minority Leader Rudy Mueller, D-Lakewood, similarly did not yet have an answer for the question.
Much of the Republican majority caucus in Mayville is running for re-election.
Legislature Chairman Fred Croscut, R-Sherman; Majority Leader Larry Barmore, R-Gerry, and Assistant Majority Leader David Himelein, R-Findley Lake, are all running for re-election.
"There's no question that I'll be seeking re-election," Croscut said. "I really do enjoy the job. That may sound funny, but I enjoy the job. I think I bring a lot to the legislature. I'm the only dairy farmer on the legislature and I think I bring a special interest in that and I do consider myself a conservative Republican."
Croscut continued on to say that he is frustrated by the way this last year has shaken out and that he's increasingly concerned about the county's financial condition.
"I'm looking forward to running another campaign and looking forward to serving two more years," Croscut said. "I just hope that we can continue to bring this legislature together. I think sometimes we might be fragmented, but I do believe everyone serves for the best interest of the county and it's unfortunate sometimes that our political differences on five percent of things tend to divide us. All in all though, I think all of us are for the benefit of the county. You have to keep that in mind and I enjoy my constituency, I enjoy my job and I am enthusiastically looking forward to running this fall in the election."
Now the assistant majority leader, Himelein was appointed to the legislature in March of last year, replacing James Caflisch, who gave up his seat to become the clerk of the legislature. Himelein is a lifelong Findley Lake resident and his district covers Clymer, French Creek, Mina and Ripley. Because he was appointed by the legislature, Himelein had to run for re-election last year. He ran unopposed. It was the only legislative election held last year.
"I'm finding it really quite interesting, a lot different than what I had originally imagined," Himelein said. "I'm getting into it. I like to get into the middle of it, get involved and give my two cents. I just hope I can help make things as best as they can be for the residents of my district and the county as a whole."
Like Himelein, Kiantone Republican Tami Downey was appointed to the legislature's District 8 seat after Ron Lemon, R-Frewsburg, like Caflisch, R-French Creek, took on the legislature clerk's position. Having been appointed this past January, this fall will be Downey's first election to the legislature.
Along with Croscut, Barmore and Himelein, longtime legislators Jay Gould, R-Ashville, and Jerry Park, R-Forestville, are running for re-election, as is John Runkle, R-Stockton.
All of the first-time Republican lawmakers who were elected in the legislature's 2009 elections will be running for a second term - George Borrello, R-Irving; Mark Tarbrake, R-Ellicott; Bob Scudder, R-Fredonia, and Bob Stewart, R-Ellington.
"I've really enjoyed my first two years on the legislature," Tarbrake said. "I think we have a lot of great people up there and I think we all strive for the common goal, to make Chautauqua County better."
Of the new group of Republicans elected to Mayville in 2009, Ellington's Bob Stewart has served less time in office as a result of the contentious District 7 court case. Stewart ran against incumbent Democrat candidate Leon Beightol, but wasn't announced as winner of the race until close to four moths after Election Day. The courts ultimately decided that Stewart beat Beightol by three votes.
In addition to deciding who would represent District 7, the drawn-out case kept the County Legislature's majority in question long into 2010 - at a tie of 12 Democrats and Democratic-leaning legislators to 12 Republicans. The Republicans had previously lost majority in the legislature to the Democrats in 1997.
Stewart's district comprises the towns of Cherry Creek, Ellington and Poland as well as a portion of the town of Charlotte.
For the Democrats, former legislature chairman and longtime Dunkirk representative Keith Ahlstrom has said he intends to run for another term. Fellow Dunkirk Democrat Shaun Heenan said Friday he also intends to seek another term in office.
In Jamestown, Paula DeJoy, Chuck Nazzaro and Lori Cornell all said they intend to run for re-election in this fall's races.
"I am running," Nazzaro said when asked about the fall elections. "I discussed it with my family and my employer and there's still a lot to be done, there's a lot of unfinished business. It's been a very difficult last couple of years with the way the economy is and the way the county budget is, but I do plan on running."
Of the minority caucus, a total of three seats are unknown at this point - James who could not be reached and both Kindberg and Mueller, who were not yet prepared to announce anything publicly.
Rounding out the confirmed Democratic ticket is Tom DeJoe, of Brocton, who told The Post-Journal that he will run for another term.
John Gullo has long said he would only serve one term in office and is keeping that promise.
"I think that the public is best served by regular people running for office, serving in office and then leaving office shortly thereafter," Gullo said. "I don't think it was ever intended that people stay in office for multiple, multiple terms. I don't think that that was the intention. Of course, it happens that way, but I don't think that that's really the best thing.
"And I don't think that I'm all that important," Gullo continued. "I don't think that I'm irreplaceable. I think that I am moderately important, perhaps, but certainly replaceable. And I think it's time for somebody to step up. On top of that, of course, I have five young children, I have a law practice and so I am not going to run again."
Though choosing not to run for a second consecutive term in the legislature, Gullo said he is not ruling out the possibility of serving again in the future - either at the county level or even the local level.
The County Legislature's sole Independence Party member, Scot Stuzman, of Jamestown, intends to run for another term in office. Also running for re-election is Sheridan Republican Bob Duff, who, while a registered Republican, does not caucus with the rest of his party in Mayville and is known for many times voting with Democrats.