Primary election contests are strewn around Niagara County Tuesday, with Niagara Falls, Lewiston and Wheatfield the hottest spots.
Four contenders are seeking the Democratic nominations for three available Niagara Falls City Council seats in the overwhelmingly Democratic city. Voters will be able to keep the three Democratic incumbents or replace one of them with a new face.
In Wheatfield, there is a Republican primary for supervisor and primaries in both major parties for councilman seats. The endorsed Republican council ticket, which includes an incumbent and a retiring councilman’s nephew, is being opposed by a pair of registered Republicans – who also have the official county Democratic endorsement to run against two other Democrats in that party’s primary.
Other highlights around the county include town justice primaries in Lockport and Porter, an unusual challenge to a political icon, and a four-way battle for highway superintendent in the county’s smallest town.
Polls will be open from noon to 9 p.m. Tuesday. Call the Niagara County Board of Elections at 438-4040 or visit its website at elections.niagara.ny.us to check your polling place.
Much of the effort here is being expended on write-in primaries to try to grab various minor-party lines away from the endorsed major-party candidates. Nine of the 15 districts have those “opportunity to ballot” primaries, and often more than one; for a full rundown, check the Board of Elections website.
There are two mano-a-mano races, however, and the one in the 2nd District, parts of Wheatfield and Lewiston, involves the chairman of the Legislature, William L. Ross of Wheatfield.
Ross, 79, a Conservative, is defending his regular spot on the Republican line against Sean M. O’Laughlin, a registered Republican who will have the Democratic line in November. Ross, the longest-serving Legislature chairman in county history, said it’s the first time he has fought a primary since 1979, when he was a Democrat running for a councilman seat in the Town of Niagara.
“I’ve campaigned since July 1. I didn’t take it lightly,” Ross said. “My platform has been experience and achievement, especially over the last 10 years.”
O’Laughlin, nephew of longtime Niagara Falls Mayor Michael O’Laughlin, has worked for Unifrax for 37 years; he is now the company’s Western New York purchasing manager.
“He’s going to be 80 years old this year. We need a change. We need term limits,” O’Laughlin said of Ross. O’Laughlin also said the county needs industrial development agency reform so the hiring of local workers is required for IDA-backed construction projects.
At the other end of the county, Legislator Michael A. Hill, R-Hartland, has a Conservative Party primary against Joshua D. Walker. Walker is the grandson of party founder Raymond Walker and the son of former party chairman Dean Walker. It’s a warm-up for their November bout, in which Walker will be on the Democratic line.
Hill did not return repeated calls for a comment for this article.
Walker, a union electrician, said he believes Hill “is not a conservative by registration or by the way he spends our money. He’s a puppet. My campaign slogan is, ‘End Puppet Government.’ He doesn’t vote the way his constituents want.”
Asked if taking the Democratic and Working Families endorsements is conservative, Walker said, “It’s not. … We both want the same thing. We want to move out the regime that’s raising the taxes.”
Four candidates are seeking the top spot for supervisor with Dennis J. Brochey Sr. taking on Michael A. Johnson for the Democratic line and Ernest C. Palmer squaring off against incumbent Steven L. Reiter for the Republican line.
Reiter, 59, of Ridge Road, has waffled about his plan to continue in the race after he faced a sudden heart bypass surgery a few months ago and then found himself under continuing investigation by the FBI. He also saw an $8 million plan for a town civic center, a project he spearheaded, go down to defeat by a 2-1 margin.
Reiter left a hospital bed to put his name in the ring, but as the primaries grew closer, he lost his endorsement by the GOP and said a few weeks before the primary that he is “having second thoughts because of party unity” and “wondering if I should gracefully bow out.”
Reiter is seeking a third two-year term and served as highway superintendent for 10 years before taking the top spot.
He said: “I have a commitment to continue as supervisor. There are things I have to complete.” He said some of the best things they’ve done is improving the fund balance, cutting legal and engineering expenses, making progress improving Joseph Davis State Park and improving the town infrastructure, including sidewalks in Sanborn and the Sanborn Farm Museum.
Palmer, 54, of Lower River Road, has received the GOP endorsement and said he would not have run without the backing of the party as well as support from the Town Board.
Palmer has been on the board for the past seven years. He has worked in the field of law enforcement for 30 years and still works as a consultant. He was chief of detectives in Niagara Falls before his retirement and was the city’s police chief in the late 1990s and Village of Youngstown police chief for five years.
“I am familiar with the town and the financial status of the town. Our board works quite well together, and I wouldn’t want to lose the momentum we’ve built up over the past several years, moving the town in the right direction,” he said.
Brochey, 61, of North Fifth Street, who recently retired from the auto shop he owned, is completing his first year as a Lewiston village trustee. He has been the chairman of the New York State Power Lifters Association, is on the board of directors for the Lewiston Kiwanis Club and second co-chairman for the annual Lewiston Peach Festival, and was on the executive board for the Automotive and Technology Group of Western New York.
“I love this Lewiston community, and I enjoy doing this kind of work. I feel I can do a lot for everybody, not just the village itself,” he said.
Johnson, 61, of Cayuga Street, has been finance officer for the town for the past 3½ years and prior to that had served as a town councilman for 14 years. He is a Realtor and appraiser who has owned his own business for 37 years.
He noted his experience working with budgets.
“Knowing what I know from the inside, and what I know with 14 years on the board, I think I have the experience to move Lewiston forward to the challenges I think they are going to face in the next five years. I’ve been trying to sit down with the board and develop a five-year business plan,” he said.
City of Lockport
The only race in the city, not just Tuesday but in November, too, is the contest for 5th Ward alderman between two-term incumbent Kenneth M. Genewick and longtime 2nd Ward Alderwoman Phyllis J. Green. Green has the Democratic line for November, but Tuesday she and Genewick have a GOP primary.
The 80-year-old Green, who nearly pulled off a gigantic upset in 2011, losing a GOP mayoral primary to Mayor Michael W. Tucker by just 25 votes, has served seven terms in the 2nd Ward, but redistricting has placed her in the 5th Ward.
“I think I’m probably more independent [than Genewick]. I think for myself,” Green said. She said the Council seems to be more interested in finishing meetings quickly than in discussing issues.
Genewick, head of the county Office for the Aging, said he wants to improve efficiency in city government. His goals include safer neighborhoods and improving public access to the government. “I want to continue the progress we’ve made the last several years,” he said.
Town of Lockport
Incumbent Republican Supervisor Marc R. Smith is being challenged for the Conservative line by auto repair shop owner David J. Mongielo, a former GOP committeeman who lost to Smith in 2009 and since then has changed affiliation to Conservative.
Smith, who has the Conservative endorsement, said his credentials for members of that party are solid: no general town property tax; 10 years of balanced budgets; the creation of 85 new businesses, including the giant Yahoo data center project; 323 jobs; and three parks.
Much of that has been accomplished with the help of industrial development agency tax breaks, which Mongielo opposes.
“It’s unfair to give tax breaks to selected businesses. It’s not up to the government to create jobs; it’s up to the people,” said Mongielo, who faces a second trial on charges of violating the town’s sign ordinance as well as charges of fighting with a police officer in the City of Lockport. Mongielo filed a $575,000 police brutality lawsuit in the latter case.
For councilman, GOP voters will make two choices from among incumbents Mark C. Crocker and Patricia Dufour and first-time candidate Paul R. Black.
Black’s platform includes seeking referenda this fall on a set of reforms to Town Board operations. He gathered petition signatures to try to place them on the ballot.
“I’m trying to get the board to represent the people and treat the people with respect,” Black said. “I wanted to do more than beat my chest and scream ‘I want change.’”
Crocker said, “I served my country and my community for the last 33 years, first as an officer in the Air Force and now for eight years on the Town Board. I know how to get the job done. That’s the bottom line.”
Dufour, who joined the board in January after the death of Paul H. Pettit, said she has 35 years of business experience. “I want to continue the message that our town is ‘open for business,’” she said. “People are continually saying that they would like to see more shopping, dining and businesses to generate jobs in our town.”
Republican Councilwoman Cheryl A. Antkowiak is trying to get off the Town Board. She is running for town justice, facing Democrat John J. Ben in six party primaries.
“My heart has always been in the courts,” said Antkowiak, a former court employee. “It’s probably the most important job there is in the town, being the justice.”
Ben, who works for a title search company, passed the bar exam in California but has never practiced law. “In this business, I deal every day in the area of law,” said Ben, who lost a race for justice 12 years ago.
Three candidates will vie for two Town Board seats in this Republican primary: incumbent Robert A. Pettit and newcomers Susan L. Neidlinger and Rick Coleman.
Pettit, 75, is finishing his 12th year on the board and is the retired owner of L.E. Pettit Electric.
“You need a steady hand, experience and the proper verve for this job, and I’ve got it,” he said. “I’ve lived here all my life. This is my passion and I want to see Newfane prosper.
Neidlinger, 57, owns Shoppe on Main in Newfane and is a branch manager for Longaberger Co. and active in the Newfane Business Association, Newfane Tourism Committee and Lockport Zonta Club.
Commenting on her longtime volunteerism, Neidlinger said, “A position on the Town Board may give me more of a voice to get some of the things done that I want to do in Newfane.”
Coleman, 53, is chief operator and lab director of the Niagara County Water Treatment Plant, where he has worked for 33 years. He has also been active with the Miller Hose Volunteer Fire Company for more than three decades, having served as past president for eight years.
“I’ve always had a little interest in politics,” he said. “I’m good with budgets and personnel, and I believe I bring a lot of assets to the table and want to serve the community.”
Two candidates are competing for the Working Families line for 3rd Ward alderman.
Incumbent Eric Zadzilka, 44, of Fairmont Avenue, is seeking a third three-year term against challenger and political newcomer Darlene E. Bolsover, 40, of Sweeney Street.
Zadzilka is a certified ophthalmological assistant and a licensed optician for a doctor in Williamsville. “I am focusing on progress in the city and continue with the progress we made,” he said, pointing to the extension of Meadow Drive, for which ground was broken at the end of August. “We are trying to finish what we started and formulate solutions.”
Bolsover, a lifelong city resident and homemaker, is seeking her first political office, but has been an active community member, serving as treasurer and president in the North Tonawanda Parent Teacher Association.
“I wanted to bring about positive changes. We’re between Niagara Falls and Buffalo, two major developing hubs, and North Tonawanda has changed a lot over those years. We need to adapt to being between these two cities and take the positives from both.”
Three candidates are competing for two Town Board seats in the Democratic primary. They are incumbent Edward P. Harman and newcomers Eileen H. Czarnecki and Aimee A. Jarvis.
Harman, 65, is a retired supervisor of biomedical engineering at Erie County Medical Center, where he worked for 27 years. He served on the town’s recreation committee for 11 years prior to his stint on the Town Board, where he is finishing his first four-year term.
“I want to continue on the board. I enjoy it,” he said. “I have been involved with the seniors since 2010 when they were looking to expand, and we have proposed a conceptual plan for a community center to encompass everyone.”
Czarnecki, 54, serves on the town’s recreation committee and business development committee. She has been an administrator with the Buffalo Public Schools for more than 30 years.
“I want to continue to support balanced budgets that promote needed services, facilities and infrastructure while maintaining the town’s policy of low taxes and debt,” she said.
Jarvis, 56, is the manager of a swimming supply store and longtime member of the Wendelville Volunteer Fire Company’s Ladies Auxiliary and Western New York Ladies Auxiliary.
“I’m a very good manager and have great organizational skills, and I think I could do a very good job at this, so I threw my hat into the ring,” she said.
In the race for highway superintendent, incumbent Jeffrey R. Stowell faces Aaron J. Bair in a Conservative primary for a two-year term.
Stowell, 53, has held the post for 10 years, having worked for the town’s sewer and water department prior to his election. He is a board member of the Niagara County Highway Superintendents’ Association, where he served as past president and vice president.
“I was born and raised in Pendleton, and it’s important for me to see its growth and future,” he said.
Bair, of Oakwood Drive, could not be reached to comment. He is the endorsed Democratic nominee for the November election.
Two candidates for town justice are going head to head in six separate party primaries – Republican, Democratic, Conservative, Independence, Working Families and Green Party.
It also marks the first time in 32 years that incumbent Town Justice David J. Truesdale has been challenged. Truesdale, a Republican, is running against Daniel P. Boland, a registered Democrat.
Truesdale, 65, retired from teaching fifth and sixth grade for the Wilson Schools District in 2002. He is treasurer and a life member with the Youngstown Volunteer Fire Company. He has served as president and treasurer of the Niagara County Magistrates’ Association.
Boland, 59, has been an attorney in private practice for 25 years and served as an assistant attorney with the Niagara County Department of Social Services for seven years. He has been with the Niagara Falls Fire Department for 35 years and currently serves as a battalion chief. He has also served as acting fire chief and is president of the Niagara Falls Firefighters Mutual Aid Association.
With Highway Superintendent Kenneth J. Bigelow stepping down, four men are running in a Republican primary to succeed him: Carl A. Austin, Jonathan D. Dewart, Michael W. Flint and Louis J. Mead.
None of the four has held elective office before. The only one currently on the town payroll is Dewart, a water and sewer maintenance man. The GOP did not endorse any of the contenders, deciding on an open primary. However, Dewart has the Conservative and Independence party lines for November.
Austin, 62, retired after 38 years with LaFarge Corp., where he said he ran every type of equipment and did rock drilling and blasting, as well as operating the plants. This is his first attempt at political office.
“Because of all of my years at the stone quarry, I know what needs to be done and the best materials to use for projects,” he said. “I’ve wanted to work for the town for a long time and now, with the highway superintendent retiring, maybe it’s my turn.”
Dewart, 49, has worked for the town’s wastewater and grounds department for nearly 30 years and is one course shy of a master’s degree in education.
“Having worked for the town for 28 years, I’m pretty familiar with it, and when the superintendent announced his retirement, I saw an opportunity to step in and pick up the reins and carry on,” he said. “I feel it’s definitely a job I can make a difference in.”
Flint, 56, has owned Mike Flint Trucking Co. since 1998 and managed an auto parts store for 22 years prior to that. This is the Somerset native’s first race.
“I dive into everything with both feet, and I have experience with budgets and maintenance and have had people work for me,” said Flint. “I’m fair and well-respected.”
Mead, 39, is a business consultant and has served on the Barker School Board for the past six years.
“This is my way of giving back to the community,” he said.
Robert B. Cliffe, the former town justice who became supervisor four years ago, is running against Thomas J. Larson, a Republican who also has the Democratic nod for November.
“We’ve put the town in a very good position from a very bad position. We’re now where we want to be. We have some very interesting projects coming up,” said Cliffe, who cited the River Road park project and improvements in Fairmount and Mario parks.
Larson demanded a public debate. “Mr. Cliffe has made a lot of claims, many of them childish and foolish, and I believe that we should debate and discuss the issues face to face, for the entire town to hear and understand. Many people have questions about the town’s services, taxes, and what each of us truly stands for,” Larson said.
Cliffe charges that Larson and his Town Board running mates, Michael A. Kislack and Karen McKernan, are tools of former Supervisor Timothy E. Demler, whom Cliffe defeated in 2009 and 2011.
Larson, Kislack and McKernan denied Cliffe’s charge that they will create a town job for Demler if they are elected.
They called for eliminating the highway tax, which Cliffe said he intends to do next year.
On the GOP ballot, Kislack and McKernan are facing incumbent Arthur W. Gerbec and new candidate Randy W. Retzlaff, the nephew of retiring Councilman Kenneth Retzlaff.
Gerbec said, “We’re very pleased with some of the results, we’ve had, and we’d like to finish our work.” He has proposed creation of a new drainage department to focus more on that issue. He also is pleased that a site near the senior center has been chosen for a town veterans monument.
Retzlaff, a construction site development manager for Benderson Development Co., said his daily work involves drainage and infrastructure. “The biggest problems, obviously, are mosquitoes and flooding. Eighty percent of the people want that addressed, and 100 percent want no tax increase,” he said.
Kislack said, “I will focus to restore responsiveness to Town Hall. We need to put an end to constant loss of services and open our Town Board meetings back up to input from the Wheatfield residents.”
McKernan said she and her running mates will try to restore town services cut out of the budget. “I will do what it takes to attract new business to the town and maintain a relationship with current businesses,” she said.
Kislack and McKernan also have a Democratic primary against Shirley J. Joy, the town Democratic chairwoman, and her running mate, Judy A. Blake.
“I don’t have a hidden agenda. I believe in checks and balances. It’s been a one-party town for some time,” said Joy, a retired accountant who was denied her party’s endorsement after county Democratic Chairman Nicholas J. Forster went with GOP challengers Kislack and McKernan.
“My opinion is, we need a female view on the board,” said Blake, a retired Praxair employee working part time as assistant clerk in Town Court.
News Niagara Reporters Nancy A. Fischer and Teresa Sharp contributed to this report. email: firstname.lastname@example.org