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GOP NAMES JUDICIAL CANDIDATES

Two days after the most raucous judicial nominating convention in the memory of Erie County Democrats, local Republicans gathered Monday evening to compose their slate of candidates for State Supreme Court.

On one candidate Republicans even agreed with Democrats. They cross-endorsed incumbent Democrat Joseph S. Forma, virtually guaranteeing him re-election to a second 14-year term.

The party also nominated County Legislature Minority Leader Frederick J. Marshall, Buffalo attorney Donna M. Siwek and Niagara County Attorney Ralph A. Boniello III.

"It was the right thing to do," Erie County Republican Chairman Robert E. Davis said of the Forma cross-endorsement. "He's done a good job, and I believe in the integrity of the system."

Davis emphasized that the party decided to make the bipartisan move on its own, with no agreement with Democrats.

Though Republicans scored unprecedented successes last year by electing three Supreme Court justices in a clean sweep, Davis acknowledged the GOP will encounter a tougher assignment this year. Democrats traditionally do well in the eight counties of Western New York in presidential years, when the area's Democratic enrollment advantage often kicks in.

"It's always difficult; we've never had success in presidential years in recent years," Davis said, noting that Republicans had only elected two Supreme Court justices in contested elections twice since 1985 before last year's sweep.

"But we think we have a good chance if we offer quality candidates," he said.

Also weighing in with judicial endorsements Monday night were Conservatives, Liberals and the Independence Party.

The Liberals endorsed Forma, Buffalo City Judge E. Jeanette Ogden, Niagara County Family Court Judge Paul V. Crapsi and Erie County Judge Sheila A. DiTullio.

The Conservative Party backed Marshall, Siwek, Boniello and DiTullio.

The Independence Party endorsed Crapsi, Boniello, Marshall and Siwek.

Several sources said election lawyers from the parties have concentrated on what order the candidates were nominated, since that determines ballot position. All were attempting to put their candidates into what they perceived to be the best ballot positions.

The Monday Republican action follows Saturday's highly contested Democratic judicial convention, in which the warring camps of Chairman G. Steven Pigeon and County Clerk David J. Swarts wrangled all Saturday morning. Finally a slate supported by Swarts narrowly carried the day.

The Democratic lineup is Forma, DiTullio, Ogden and Crapsi.

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