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Newcomer tops the field in Falls Democratic primary Grandinetti, Fruscione and Walker win nominations for City Council seats

A political newcomer was the top vote-getter among five candidates seeking the Democratic nomination in the race for the three open seats on the Niagara Falls City Council.

Kristen M. Grandinetti, a fourth-grade teacher at Harry F. Abate Elementary School, won 1,832 votes, or 24.5 percent, according to unofficial results.

Two incumbents, Samuel F. Fruscione and Charles A. Walker, nailed down the other two spots. They got 1,721 and 1,614 votes, or 23 percent and 21.6 percent, respectively.

The other candidates were Glenn A. Choolokian and Elliott J. White. Choolokian got 1,479 votes, while White received 823 votes.

The three top vote-getters will face Republicans Candra C. Thomason and Kenneth A. Pawlukovich in the general election.

Grandinetti, who is seeking her first term, said Tuesday night she planned to enjoy the victory for the moment, and would take time today to reflect on how she can be victorious in the general election.

"We want to move this community forward again," she said.

Fruscione, 43, is a fifth-grade teacher at Harry F. Abate Elementary School. He is seeking his second term on the City Council.

Walker, 50, a community outreach manager at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, is seeking his fourth Council term.

Choolokian, 42, is a 22-year buildings and grounds employee of the Niagara Falls Water Board. He was previously elected to a one-year special term on the City Council.

White, 53, is a military veteran and former manager who operates a Web site design and marketing firm in Niagara Falls. He was seeking his first term on the Council.

>County Legislature

Richard A. Marasco defeated 1st District County Legislator Jason J. Murgia in a Democratic primary Tuesday, just as he did two years ago in a Republican primary.

Marasco, who lost to Murgia in the general election in 2007, changed his party affiliation from Republican to Democratic in the midst of the 2007 campaign for the seat representing DeVeaux and downtown Niagara Falls areas.

Murgia, a registered Democrat, votes with the Republican-led Legislature majority and has the GOP ballot line for the Nov. 3 general election.

But he's never failed to win the Democratic line in his previous races, and with Democrats holding a nearly 3-to-1 enrollment edge in the 1st District, Murgia's primary loss is a major blow to his hopes of winning a third full term Nov. 3.

Marasco beat Murgia Tuesday, 542 to 288, according to complete but unofficial returns posted at the Niagara County Board of Elections.

Two years ago, Marasco campaigned as "the real Republican in the race." Now he's a Democrat and said if he wins in November, he will bring "openness and transparency to government. I think that's what voters are looking for and that's what they're getting if they get me."

Murgia said, "I'm disappointed. I ran a clean, honest race. All I've ever done is tell the people about my accomplishments, and that's what I'll continue to do in the general election."

Marasco, 58, is a social studies teacher at Niagara Falls High School. Murgia, 37, formerly worked for the school district as a grants coordinator.

In LaSalle's 5th District, Vincent M. Sandonato defeated Vincent M. Mameli, 172 to 52, in a Republican primary for the nomination to run for the seat being vacated by 24-year incumbent Democrat Sean J. O'Connor.

Sandonato, 23, a legal assistant, moves on to face Democrat Nicholas A. Melson in November.

>Lockport

Councilmen Paul H. Pettit and Mark C. Crocker cruised to Republican nominations for re-election to the Town Board, defeating challengers Donna J. Pieszala and David T. Devereaux, according to unofficial results.

Pettit, 71, of Waterford Place, is running for his fourth term. The retired GM engineer got 618 votes, or 37.3 percent.

Crocker, 53, a retired Air National Guard lieutenant colonel and flight navigator, got 532 votes, or 32.1 percent. He is serving as deputy supervisor this year.

Pieszala, 52, a General Motors retiree who is in her fourth year on the Newfane School Board, got 259 votes, or 15.6 percent.

Devereaux, 52, another GM retiree, got 249 votes, or 15 percent.

>Cambria

Among the four candidates chasing two spots on the Republican line for Town Board in Cambria, an incumbent and challenger came out on top, according to unofficial results.

Robert E. Blackman, a veteran of four terms on the board and a fifth-generation farmer, and Randy M. Roberts, a foreman for Pfeiffer Foods in Wilson, were the top two vote-getters.

Blackman, 65, got 203 votes, or about 31.6 percent. He runs Blackman Homestead Farms, a fruit and cattle farm on Thrall Road.

Roberts, 50, got 180 votes, or about 28 percent. He has lived in Cambria 25 years and is involved in coaching baseball in the town.

Debra L. Kroening, an incumbent who was seeking her second term on the board, finished third. She got 137 votes, or about 21 percent.

Kroening, 50, won a seat in the 2005 election, six months after the death of her father, Robert L. McCollum, who served 32 years as town clerk as well as two terms on the Town Board.

Theresa M. Kroening gathered 122 votes, or 19 percent.

Both Blackman and Debra Kroening were endorsed by the town Republican committee and by the Niagara County Republican, Conservative and Independence committees.

Debra and Theresa Kroening are related through marriage -- Theresa's husband was a cousin of Debra's late husband.

>Wilson

The two Town Council candidates endorsed by the town GOP took home victories in Tuesday's primary for spots on the Republican line.

In the three-way race, incumbent Brad Clark got 188 votes, or 40.9 percent, according to unofficial results.

Challenger Jon L. Munnikhuysen got 168 votes, or 36.5 percent, and David K. Moyer got 104, or 22.6 percent.

Clark is seeking a fourth term to his seat and the other opening occurred with the resignation in May of Councilwoman Melinda Major. No one was appointed to fill the remainder of the year left in Major's term.

Clark, 59, is a retired senior mechanic at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center and has lived in Wilson for more than 50 years. He has been a member of Wilson Volunteer Fire Company No. 1 for 34 years and is a past president. He and his wife, Judith, have three children and five grandchildren and live on Harwood Avenue.

Munnikhuysen, 54, a lifelong Wilson resident, is a retired Delphi tool and dye maker who now works for Heinrich Chevrolet. He is also a member of Wilson Fire Company No. 1 and has been active in local coaching.

Moyer, 56, said he changed his party affiliation from Republican to Conservative, but it won't take effect until after the November election.

A self-described "regular" at Town Board meetings for many years, Moyer is a lifelong resident who served on the town's Zoning Board of Appeals for 15 years.

>Royalton

The same two candidates who ran for highway superintendent in 2007 split victories in races for minor party lines.

Incumbent Terry Nieman and challenger Carson Kelley faced off on the Conservative and Independence Party lines.

Nieman, 58, has held the post since 2000 and has the backing of the Conservative, Independence and Republican parties. He took the Independence line on Tuesday with all 10 votes, according to unofficial results. He got 15 votes in the Conservative primary.

Kelley, 54, who owns C and C Trucking and Excavating Co., is endorsed by the Democratic and Working Families parties. He took the Conservative line, nabbing 24 votes in that race, but no votes in the Independence primary.

News Niagara Reporter Thomas J. Prohaska contributed to this report.

e-mail: abesecker@buffnews.com

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