Paul A. Dyster, Democratic candidate for mayor of Niagara Falls, crushed Republican Candra C. Thomason by a 4-to-1 ratio Tuesday in a decisive election victory built on a promise to create a "politically cleaner, environmentally greener and economically more prosperous city."
The 53-year-old small business owner maintained momentum after a strong Democratic primary win and characterized the election Tuesday as a "new day dawning in the City of Niagara Falls."
"Look out world," Dyster told more than 200 supporters gathered at an American Legion post. "Because we're getting ready to claw our way back to the front of the pack."
Dyster took 8,050 votes compared with Thomason's 2,112, according to unofficial results available Tuesday night.
While Democrats swept all races in Niagara Falls, the Niagara County Republican party kept its stronghold on the Niagara County Legislature, and GOP Mayor Michael W. Tucker sailed to an easy victory in Lockport.
Incumbents won the vast majority of town races across the county, but two races in the City of North Tonawanda were too close to call because of absentee ballots to be counted next week. Absentee ballots also will figure in the outcome in Somerset, where the incumbent supervisor is ahead after Tuesday despite losing a Republican primary in September and being forced to run on minor party lines.
While the sense of sameness could be felt in election circles around much of the county, optimism was palpable in Niagara Falls.
Dyster, 53, touted his ability throughout the campaign to partner with leaders across Western New York and with Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer.
"Niagara Falls will stop being an anchor holding Western New York back, but will become once again a powerful engine moving forward," Dyster told supporters.
He owns a small beer brewing supply store in North Tonawanda with his wife, Rebecca. He is a former City Council member who has a doctorate in international relations and international law.
Supporters at Dyster's victory party Tuesday included a cross section of the community, including block club leaders and two city Councilmen.
Buffalo architect Clinton E. Brown called Dyster's work in helping to create a vision for the Niagara Greenway a "bell weather" for the future of the city.
"Having Niagara Falls as a partner in the regional renaissance is so important because one community cannot do it on its own," Brown said. "His success will help my neighborhood in Buffalo."
In other Falls races, Democrat Robert P. Merino soundly won a newly created city judgeship with 5,732 votes over Republican Maria A. Massaro, who took 3,888 votes. Each candidate spent more than $60,000 in the hotly contested race.
The City Council will remain all-Democratic. Democrat Council Chairman Robert A. Anderson Jr. retained his seat, while newcomer Steven D. Fournier will replace Councilman Lewis "Babe" Rotella, who made an unsuccessful bid for mayor in the Democratic primary.
Both mayoral candidates spent the days leading up to the campaign meeting with senior citizens, passing our literature and greeting voters at the polls.
But Thomason, a former Councilwoman, fell behind in fundraising and gathered little financial support from the Niagara County Republican party.
Dyster, who reported spending more than $50,000 on the race, trounced Thomason in fundraising efforts during the general and primary campaigns. Thomason reported late last month that she had raised $6,332.
Thomason, who made a push in the final week of the campaign to attract voters with a promise to end the city's assessment program and pump slot machine revenue directly into the city's budget, said she felt she had been locked out of early campaign events.
She was not invited to participate in a primary debate and failed to gather support to appear on any minor party lines.
"I had a game of catchup to play, and I think I played it well," Thomason said.
Registered Democrats in the city of Niagara Falls outnumber Republicans three-to-one.
About 38 percent of city's registered voters turned out for the mayoral election, a drop from four years ago when Mayor Vince Anello won office. Anello could not run for a second term after he failed to gather enough valid petitions to appear on the primary ballot.
Thomason vowed to stay active in Niagara Falls and said she is considering running for mayor again.
"We've got an opportunity of a lifetime, and we don't want to blow it," Thomason said.
"It would be easy to walk away, but I've never taken the easy route."
Several Dyster supporters said they were turned off by the tone Thomason's campaign took in the final days.
"This election represents a move toward professionalism in government," said Al Rotundo. "The voters are getting smarter."