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Candidates express interest in running for Legislature

Some fresh faces are mulling whether to enter races for Niagara County Legislature seats in this fall's election.

Scott A. Schultz, president of the North Tonawanda Board of Education, said Saturday he's considering throwing his hat into the ring for 11th District legislator.

Michelle J. Wheeler, a Newfane homemaker, said she's trying to decide whether to run for 18th District legislator.

Also in that district, Merrill S. Bender, former president of the Barker Board of Education, is said to be considering a Legislature bid. Bender wouldn't comment Friday night.

Meanwhile, Randy S. Ubriaco, a Niagara Falls insurance broker, said he's running for 3rd District legislator.

And Robert S. LaBarbera, who lost a race in the 6th District two years ago, said Saturday he's going to try again.

Schultz is a Democrat and would be running for the seat being vacated by 20-year Legislature veteran Malcolm A. Needler, a Republican who is not seeking re-election. The GOP has yet to come up with a candidate to replace him, although county GOP Chairman Henry F. Wojtaszek said there are several possibilities.

Schultz said he is already working on a campaign to be re-elected to the School Board, but winning that race wouldn't preclude him from serving on the Legislature. He's been on the School Board for nine years and president for two years.

"I've done nothing formal yet [about a Legislature race]," said Schultz, a physiological equipment specialist for Kaleida Health.

In Newfane, Wheeler, a Democrat, said she wants to see if she receives an endorsement from the county Democratic Committee before making a formal announcement of candidacy. If she runs, she will be seeking a seat now held by Republican John Syracuse, who has declared for re-election.

But Syracuse might find himself facing a GOP primary against Bender, who has been one of the most prominent critics of the tax break the county Industrial Development Agency gave AES Corp. on its Somerset power plant. Bender has spoken from the audience at every recent Legislature meeting.

In Niagara Falls, Ubriaco, a Republican, said he's running for the seat being given up by Rebecca E. Cuddahee, a Democrat who caucuses with the Republicans. Ubriaco is a member of the Niagara Falls Tourism Advisory Board and an election inspector.

Two Democrats are also running in the 3rd District: Jason J. Cafarella, a firefighter and attorney, and Mario P. Tonellato, a recreation specialist in the Niagara Falls Youth Bureau.

In the Town of Niagara, LaBarbera said he intends to challenge incumbent Danny W. Sklarski in a Democratic primary, as he did in 2005.

Sklarski, a registered Democrat who caucuses with the Republicans, said Saturday he expects to run for re-election.


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