DEPEW, N.Y. - With the election just three-weeks away, Ted Morton did not want to spend these final campaign days talking about his defunct financial planning business.
"I understand that's how politics works, unfortunately," said Morton.
But a mistake by the Republican Erie County lawmaker has dredged up this issue at a time when Democrats are starting to pour resources into the 8th district race.
Morton's error is on a required annual financial disclosure statement submitted to the Erie County Ethics Board. The document asks about sources of income and debts. After his election to the legislature in 2013, Morton's filing for that year indicated a single debt of between $10,000-25,000. The creditor listed is Nadine Houghton.
That very same year, Morton was fined $5,000 by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority for "borrowing $315,000 from customers" without written permission.
Morton explains, "I ran into a business problem two and a half years ago. I certainly wasn't happy about it. It was 30-years of my life."
But when questioned by Buffalo News reporter Sandra Tan, Morton disclosed that the amount owed at that time was more like $90,000 owed to three people.
Morton's campaign spokesman Steve Whipple issued a brief statement which said in part, "It was a mistake. Ted is currently working on amending his 2013 ethics filing and should have that completed by close of business today."
Not good enough, in the eyes of Erie County Democratic Committee chairman Jeremy Zellner, "I think Legislator Morton has proven time and time again that he will mislead. He will lie and do whatever he can to make himself look better and hide things from the voters."
Morton's filing gaff is an opportunity for his Democratic opponent, first-time candidate Debra Liegl, "I really believe that I am the candidate that the tax-payers can trust, that the voters can trust."
Liegl was already getting substantial help from the county Democratic party in the form of strategy advice and staffing. Democratic leaders see the race as an opportunity.
Morton's win two-years ago swung the legislature to the Republicans for the first time in more than three decades. If Liegl can pull off the win, Democrats could regain control.