Democrat Brian Dembinski will likely have a leg up on Republican opponent Bradley Lacko in this year’s race for Amherst city council’s first ward.
Following the Feb. 13 resignation of councilman Steve Bukovac, Dembinski is the anticipated pick to serve out the term’s remaining 10 months.
Why? Because he is the president of the Amherst Democratic Central Committee, which will have the power to appoint Bukovac’s replacement in a Feb. 26 meeting at the Main Street Community Center on Park Avenue — and because Dembinski filed earlier this year to run for the ward one seat, knowing Bukovac did not want to run again.
But his appointment to council isn’t a foregone conclusion. Amherst Democrats have asked interested parties to put their names in the hat for consideration by Wednesday, Feb. 22.
Dembinski is unopposed in his party’s primary race but will face Lacko in November.
We reached out to both candidates to learn more about their outlooks:
“I’m not a politician by any means. I’m not going to lie to anybody about that,” said Lacko, an independent trucker.
He was asked to run by fellow Republican and Amherst city treasurer Richard Ramsey. Lacko said he agreed because he wants to set an example for his newborn daughter.
“I’m a leadership type of person and that would look good to her. I believe children learn by example — who they live with, who they’re around,” he said. “I believe she’s going to grow up on the right path.”
Election to a trustee position at Amherst United Methodist Church also stirred his interest in other leadership roles.
Lacko, 37, grew up in LaGrange and graduated from Keystone High School in 1997. He earned a two-year degree from ITT Technical Institute and worked as an Amherst firefighter from 2003 to 2013.
While he did not put forward specific issues he would address as a councilman, Lacko said he believes council members should cooperate more regardless of party, and he believes he could foster that partnership.
“I’m going to try hard, do my best, put in the effort,” he said.
“When you live someplace, you shouldn’t just sit idly by,” said Dembinski, who works with point of sale technology at the Macy’s data center in Lorain.
Dembinski, 35, is a 2000 graduate of Clearview High School. He holds a computer science and engineering degree from the University of Toledo.
Asked what issues he would address as a councilman, he outlined concerned about cost inefficiencies, electric outages, road conditions, and aging sewers.
He also praised Bukovac, a fellow Democrat, whom he called well-organized and a voice of reason. In fact, Dembinski confirmed that he’d previously wanted to run for the first ward seat but held back out of respect for Bukovac.
And he acknowledged that the political landscape leaves his bid in question. Amherst voted for President Donald Trump in November by a relatively large margin; Dembinski said it’s hard to predict whether that support for a national candidate will mean an uphill battle for local Democrats this year.
“Amherst voters are largely independent,” he said.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.