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CITIZENS GROUP EXPANDS EFFORT IN ELECTIONS

Primary Challenge, the Erie County citizens group that tries to recruit "real people" to run for office, has expanded its activities into Niagara County.

Jean LaTona of Niagara Falls, a former radio disc jockey, is the coordinator of Primary Challenge in Niagara County. She said she will emphasize finding candidates for the 19 County Legislature seats on the ballot this fall.

"I know Niagara County is not as bad as Erie County, but there's excess spending on cosmetic surgery, the possible extra tax to run the (Niagara Falls Public) library, and the sale of Mount View (Health Facility)," LaTona said when asked to sum up the issues.

Leonard A. Roberto of Akron formed Primary Challenge in the wake of the Erie County budget debacle. On April 15, the group held a rally in Buffalo to unveil 10 candidates it had recruited for various offices.

LaTona, daughter of Buffalo attorney Joseph M. LaTona, said she has no candidates lined up yet, but she's just getting started.

"We just want sincere people. We don't care if they're Republicans, Democrats or independents," said LaTona, a registered Republican.

There are some qualifications, though. She doesn't want any previous candidates, any "career politicians," anyone who's been appointed to a government job or anyone who has served on a political party committee.

"I think if they're going to come in and provide some competition, that's a good thing," said Henry F. Wojtaszek, the county Republican chairman. "The issues they should target are wasteful spending, like $400,000 wasted on the (Niagara Falls International) airport, and the legislators who can't make the tough decision to sell Mount View and the legislators who can't say no to elective cosmetic surgery."

The airport reference was to the cost of the Niagara Airport Development Corp., an agency set up by the county Industrial Development Agency when Democrats were in charge there three years ago. It sought unsuccessfully to win control of the airport.

Democratic Chairman Charles J. Naughton did not return a call seeking comment.

LaTona said she wants to take on the county employee unions. "I believe the unions are out of control," she said. "I believe these people are just soaking the system."

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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