Erie County Legislator Kevin Hardwick — who represents Grand Island, the City of Tonawanda, and much of the Town of Tonawanda — announced this morning that he is leaving the Republican caucus to join the Democrats on the Legislature, led by Chairwoman April Baskin.
Republicans are livid. Erie County GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy called Hardwick a ‘sellout’, and many are lining up to secure the Republican nomination for that 3rd district seat. This seat is critical to the party’s planned retaking of the majority. Grand Island Town Councilman Mike Madigan is the name most commonly mentioned as a possible Republican contender for the seat.
Hardwick, a lifelong Republican, is likely to have difficulty convincing dyed-in-the-wool Democrats to back him for reelection — even with the endorsement of the liberal County Executive Mark Poloncarz (which is still a looming uncertainty).
Indeed, many party footsoldiers are suggesting that they run their own candidate for the seat, perhaps: Gayle Syposs, the powerful former Deputy Elections Commissioner; Todd Potter, the local attorney who sought the seat last cycle; or Rick Davis, the Mayor of the City of Tonawanda, who has impressively led the city’s waterfront improvement efforts.
Many political observers think that Hardwick just sold out the only political base that he had — and expect that Democrats will be unwilling to throw him a bone. With both sides fielding aggressive challengers, some expect Hardwick may decide to retire ahead of November elections.