Two Democratic races here and Republican contests in North Tonawanda and Wheatfield comprise the lineup of major-party primaries for County Legislature seats Tuesday.
In both Niagara Falls races, the challengers were endorsed by the Niagara County Democratic Committee after the incumbents ran afoul of party chairman Nicholas J. Forster.
Following is a rundown on the races:
2nd District -- Incumbent Renae Kimble, associate director of the city Human Rights Commission, had a falling out with Forster last year over her unsuccessful bid for the 138th District Assembly seat.
Seeking her fourth term, she said, "I really think the issue is experience and leadership. I have a proven track record."
She pointed to her role in creating the county's Microenterprise Assistance Program, which has loaned $4.2 million to small businesses. Miss Kimble also said she was proud of heading the committee that wrote the county's code of ethics, her authorship of the county's smoking policy, and her role in the fight to save Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center.
Her opponent, Cynthia L. Saunders, said, "Definitely, the economic development of the brownfields would be the biggest issue." There are several of them in the inner city.
Mrs. Saunders, a bar owner and former aide to retired Assemblyman Joseph T. Pillittere, also called for affordable-housing programs to move more residents out of public housing and improved bus service in the inner city. Mrs. Saunders said she supports having a county executive, a proposal her opponent has twice unsuccessfully introduced into the Legislature.
Miss Kimble sued Mrs. Saunders and others last year in a still-pending $35 million slander case stemming from an anti-Kimble flier used during the Assembly campaign.
4th District -- It's the second time incumbent Dennis F. Virtuoso has faced a primary challenge since losing to Forster in a bid for the party chairmanship in 1996. Two years ago, he defeated Leo A. Alcuri, who is campaign manager for Virtuoso's opponent this time around, Nicholas J. Ligammari Jr.
Virtuoso, a city building inspector and coordinator of Mayor James C. Galie's Impact Team, is seeking a fifth term. He said, "One of my top priorities is development of the (Niagara Falls International) airport." He wants to see it removed from the control of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority so that local or private control can be "a catalyst for economic development, tourism, and jobs."
Virtuoso also pledged not to vote for a property tax increase in the 2000 budget, even though the state budget has left an estimated $3.5 million hole in the county's coffers.
"Raising taxes is not an option with me," he said.
Ligammari, who runs a television repair shop in Lewiston, said, "Naturally, lower taxes would be one of my priorities." He also wants to end the extra Refuse Disposal District property tax imposed for the first time this year.
Furthermore, he said, "I think we really need a county executive the way our county is going." Ligammari said the long, drawn-out contract talks with county unions wouldn't have occurred had there been an executive in charge of the situation.
8th District -- There is one vote William L. Ross won't get in the GOP primary -- his own. He's not a Republican. Ross, a Wheatfield town councilman, is officially a Democrat. He has changed his affiliation to Conservative, but that doesn't take effect until after the election in November.
Ross said, "The only base I have to depend on is my longevity in the community."
Ross, assistant principal and athletic director of Niagara-Wheatfield Senior High School, called for privatizing the Niagara Falls airport and said he doesn't favor Industrial Development Agency control of the facility. He said he's against a county executive but "would not be averse to a county administrator."
His rival, David C. Sharpe, is a home improvement contractor and a registered Republican. He said the big issue is "who can relate better to the populace of Wheatfield, a highly paid school administrator and career politician, or someone working just as hard as the people in the factory or in the field."
Sharpe favors a county executive. He denounced the IDA as "self-serving" and said the county should employ salesmen, paying them a commission if they land a new business that stays at least five years.
Besides the GOP race, Sharpe and Ross are running in a Right to Life primary, and Ross and Democratic nominee Charles J. Naughton are competing in a Liberal primary.
Both Ross and Sharpe are financing their campaigns entirely out of their own pockets; neither has accepted a single campaign contribution, according to their disclosure statements.
11th District -- Republican Malcolm A. Needler is after his seventh term. The chairman of the Legislature's Social Services Committee, he trumpeted "a dramatic decrease in the welfare rolls the last couple of years."
He also pointed to increased county funding for North Tonawanda, including a $20,000 grant to upgrade the Fire Department's emergency services, and $10,000 for the Carrousel Society. Needler said, "North Tonawanda has seen the second largest drop in (county) property taxes in the last 10 years."
His opponent, Teresa A. Gibson, an accountant, said she is against repealing the county's 3 percent sales tax on clothing, which Needler tried to do. She said it would cost the cities and towns too much revenue. She also opposes any move to raise the county's total sales tax above the current 7 percent.
Mrs. Gibson, a registered Republican whose switch to the Democratic Party becomes official after the November election, is also the Democratic nominee. She said Needler is out of touch.
"People don't know who their legislator is. Even people who know who it is said they haven't seen him in years," she said.