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GOP retains majority in Legislature Republicans hold on to 14-5 margin over 'regular' Democrats in county government

Democrats failed to make any headway against the solid Republican majority in the Niagara County Legislature Tuesday.

Complete but unofficial election results showed the Republicans and their adherents who are registered members of other parties held on to the same 14-5 margin over the "regular" Democrats that they've held during the past two years.
There will be a few new faces, as Republican Anthony Nemi knocked off a Democratic incumbent, Harry J. Apolito, in Lockport's 15th District. That was probably the race the Republican organization keyed on the most.
Nemi, the popular City of Lockport assistant youth and recreation director, pounded Apolito, 1,243 to 834.

"[Nemi] crushed him in that race," crowed county Republican Chairman Henry F. Wojtaszek. "It's all about finding great candidates and getting them to work hard and talk to the people."
On the other hand, Jason J. Ca
farella, a "regular" Democrat, won in Niagara Falls' 3rd District, a seat that had been held by Rebecca E. Cuddahee, a Democrat who voted with the GOP. Cuddahee ran for District 1 coroner -- and lost by a 2-to-1 margin to Democratic incumbent James M. Joyce.
Cafarella easily won a three-way race over Republican Randal S. Ubriaco and Mario P. Tonellato, who ran on the Working Families Party line after losing the Democratic primary to Cafarella. Cafarella won 937 to 292 for Ubriaco and 88 for Tonellato.
Democratic Chairman Daniel Rivera said of the county GOP, "We pushed the envelope and forced them to break open the piggy bank to retain what they had."
Democratic candidates throughout the county harped on the tax break the county Industrial Development Agency granted to AES Corp., the county's largest property taxpayer, but none of the IDA's supporters in the Legislature were defeated.
"I think it's an affirmation of the great work the majority caucus has done," Wojtaszek said. "And I think it's an affirmation of what a disaster Gov. [Eliot L.] Spitzer has been."

The Republicans used Spitzer's plan to give driver's licenses to illegal immigrants as a major talking point in many of their direct-mail advertisements.
Rivera blasted that tactic, calling it "a phantom issue that has nothing to do with Niagara County . . ."

"What you saw was the Willie Horton approach to politics coming to Niagara County, and unfortunately the voters fell for it," Rivera said.
In other county races, Republican John F. Batt of Lockport apparently won his second 10-year term as Family Court judge, posting a margin of 20,116 to 19,587 over Democrat Linda M. DiPasquale of Wheatfield. However, the county Board of Elections had received 1,945 absentee ballots as of Tuesday, enough to potentially change the outcome.
Three other countywide positions were filled in walkovers. Elected without opposition were Matthew J. Murphy III, a Lockport Democrat, for county judge; Michael J. Violante, a Niagara Falls Republican, to succeed Murphy as district attorney; and incumbent Wayne F. Jagow, a Lockport Republican, as county clerk.
In the coroner contests, Joyce, the 29-year incumbent, defeated Cuddahee in Niagara Falls' District 1, 5,881 to 2,936.
Absentee ballots could tell the tale in District 4, where Robert W. DuBois, a Democrat, led incumbent Republican Coroner Russell Jackman II by 84 votes, 5,023 to 4,939. As of Tuesday, the Board of Elections had received 518 absentee votes for the district, which covers the towns of Niagara, Lewiston, Porter, Wilson, Newfane and Cambria.
In Legislature races, Niagara Falls' 1st District saw another Democrat who votes with the GOP, Jason J. Murgia, successfully subdue Richard A. Marasco, a Republican who announced during the campaign he was reaffiliating as a Democrat. Murgia won 1,058 to 826.
Three "regular" Democratic veterans in Niagara Falls had little trouble squelching GOP opposition. Incumbents Renae Kimble of the 2nd District, Dennis F. Virtuoso of the 4th District and Sean J. O'Connor of the 5th District all won handily.
Kimble downed Candace J. Corsaro, 732 to 236; Virtuoso beat Joseph S. Urso, 1,539 to 597; and O'Connor defeated William C. Caso Jr., 1,482 to 1,086.
What might have been a missed opportunity for the Democrats came in the 6th District in the Town of Niagara and part of Wheatfield. Incumbent Danny W. Sklarski, a Democrat who votes with the GOP, defeated Robert S. LaBarbera, who was relegated to the Working Families line after losing the Democratic primary to Sklarski by 14 votes.
LaBarbera was hurt by a drunken driving arrest during the primary campaign; he refused party leaders' entreaties to drop out of the race and eventually pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of impaired driving. Sklarski won Tuesday, 1,839 to 532.
Republican incumbent Gerald K. Farnham held his 7th District seat in Pendleton and the Town of Lockport with a lopsided win over labor union president Roger L. Chenez, 1,351 to 914.
In the 8th District, covering southern Wheatfield, veteran lawmaker William L. Ross, a registered Conservative who ran with GOP backing, waxed Charles J. Naughton, the former county Democratic chairman, 1,586 to 951.
Democrats failed to make headway in North Tonawanda. Andrea L. McNulty, a 9th District Democrat who caucused with the GOP after joining the Legislature by appointment in March, bounced back after losing the Democratic primary to Edward T. McDonald. McNulty, running as the Republican nominee, defeated McDonald, 1,500 to 854.
Republican incumbent Peter E. Smolinski seems to have a fairly close race every two years, but he won again in the 10th District, downing Joseph A. Rich, 1,046 to 736.
Paul B. Wojtaszek, Henry Wojtaszek's brother, kept North Tonawanda's 11th District in the GOP column. He defeated former North Tonawanda Board of Education President Scott A. Schultz, 1,649 to 830, for a seat held for the past 20 years by retiring Republican Malcolm A. Needler.
One of Lewiston's most dependable vote-getters, Republican John D. Ceretto, kept his 12th District seat, turning back a strong challenge from Democrat Gerard J. Mosey, 1,518 to 1,358.
Legislature Chairman Clyde L. Burmaster, a Ransomville Republican, outpolled Youngstown Democrat Ann E. Oakes in the 13th District, 1,493 to 1,265.
In Lockport's 16th District, Republican W. Keith McNall, the former School Board president who joined the Legislature by appointment last December, defeated Democrat Beverly P. McDonough, 1,510 to 1,047.
Majority Leader Richard E. Updegrove had a close primary win against Charles F. Dahlquist, a registered Republican who also had the Democratic nomination, but it was easier Tuesday, as Updegrove held on to his 17th District seat in the Town of Lockport with a 1,243-840 victory.
Republican John Syracuse of Newfane won the GOP primary by a 2-to-1 margin over Merrill S. Bender of Somerset, a registered Republican who ran as the Democratic nominee, and he showed Tuesday that was no fluke. Bender, who emphasized opposition to the AES deal in his campaign, was whipped again, 1,823 to 960.
Two incumbents, Democrat Kyle R. Andrews of Wilson in the 14th District and Republican Michael A. Hill of Hartland in the 19th District, were re-elected unopposed.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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