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Race for new court seat proving costly

Two attorneys who hope to win a newly created city judgeship have each spent more than $60,000 in a competitive race that pits Republican Maria A. Massaro against Democrat Robert P. Merino.

The winner of Tuesday's election will become the city's fourth judge, a position with an annual salary of $113,900. The State Legislature created the position last year to address the city's high volume of cases.

Massaro, 39, a general practice attorney with the law firm Hovey & Massaro on Main Street, has been the assistant attorney for the Niagara Falls School District since 1999.

Merino, 60, is a partner with Merino & Merino on Military Road and has served as a Niagara County assistant district attorney.

Both candidates have touted their experience representing public and private entities in Niagara County, and their lifelong ties to the city.

Merino was attorney for the Town of Niagara and has tried cases both as a defense attorney and an assistant district attorney. He also served as general counsel for the former Love Canal Revitalization Agency.

"I believe my experience perfectly matches every type of case that City Court has jurisdiction over," Merino said during a candidates forum earlier this week.

Massaro pointed to her experience as a hearing officer for the school district, as well as her work as assigned counsel for indigent criminal appeals and as general counsel for Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara.

"I am a lifelong resident of our community with a stake in our future," Massaro said.

Massaro earned a law degree from Syracuse University. Merino graduated from Cleveland State University School of Law.

Expenses in the race have exceeded other city campaigns this year.

Massaro has reported spending $62,137 on her campaign through Oct. 26. Merino reported spending $69,406 during that same period.

Coming Sunday in Niagara Weekend: If elected, both Falls mayoral candidates aim to make an immediate impact; also, voters in several towns have decisions to make.


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