Anthony Nemi, a longtime official of the city Youth and Recreation Department, announced Tuesday he's running for the 15th District seat in the Niagara County Legislature.
Nemi, who was a registered Democrat until switching to the Independence Party last year, will have the Republican endorsement in the district, which covers the western half of the City of Lockport and a few adjacent blocks in the Town of Lockport. County GOP Chairman Henry F. Wojtaszek said he's been recruiting Nemi to run for two or three months.
Nemi is taking aim at incumbent Harry J. Apolito, a Democrat who said he will be running for his fourth term. In 2005, Apolito was narrowly elected, beating Republican Scott A. Cercone by eight votes.
Apolito said, "Tony's a friend of mine. If it wasn't going to be him [running for the seat], it was going to be someone else . . . Everybody's a threat because of the way the district's set up, 50 percent Democratic, 50 percent Republican. You can't take anyone lightly."
Nemi, a recreation coordinator for the city for 19 years, is widely known locally. He's president of a youth sports organization, the Tomy Nemi League, named after his father, and also heads the Lockport Umpires Association and is co-chairman of the Light Up Lockport Committee and is a member of the city Celebrations and Events Committee.
"I've always had an interest in politics, ever since I was a kid," said Nemi, a lifelong Lockport resident. But he said he felt he couldn't run on the county level while he was an assistant baseball coach at Niagara County Community College from 1983 to 2000, and couldn't run for a city post because he was on the city payroll, too.
He said his goals are to keep taxes low and work to consolidate county jobs. "For over 25 years, I have worked with the youth of our community, only to see a large number flee to other parts of the country," he said in his announcement.
Wojtaszek said since Apolito's close re-election, he "has done nothing to distinguish himself." Wojtaszek called Nemi "an outstanding candidate, an A-plus candidate."
Nemi said he will seek all minor-party nominations as well as the Republican nomination.
County Democratic Party Chairman Daniel Rivera took a swing at Nemi. "A vote for Nemi is a vote for AES and Harris Beach," Rivera said.
He was referring to AES Corp., whose controversial property tax break, granted by the county industrial development agency, is projected to cost local governments more than $43 million over the next 12 years, and Harris Beach, the politically connected law firm in which Wojtaszek is an attorney.
Nemi said the IDA board needs more eastern Niagara County members and if it had them, it might have made a different decision on AES.
Rivera said, "Niagara County needs leaders, not more political stooges controlled by the three kings, Henry [Wojtaszek], Henry [Sloma, the IDA chairman] and George [Maziarz, the GOP state senator who represents most of Niagara County]."
Nemi said, "I don't know how he's labeling me. He doesn't even know me."
"With the Republicans supporting Nemi, he's going to have to do what they tell him," Apolito charged.