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Mayoral campaign takes shape in Falls Challengers emerging to Dyster 2nd-term bid

With this fall's mayoral election still more than six months away, two potential candidates have announced their intention to challenge Mayor Paul A. Dyster for the $78,000-a-year job.

In addition, another candidate is expected to join the race soon, two others have ruled themselves out, and yet another is considering a candidacy but still is "assessing various options."

Dyster became the first announced candidate when he said last December that he is seeking his second four-year term. He was elected mayor in 1997 to a term that began Jan. 1, 2008, and expires at the end of this year.

Anticipating that he would have at least one challenger, and maybe more, Dyster said, "The forces that oppose us are determined to rewind to the past. We have to be well-organized and well-prepared to meet and beat that challenge."

Achievements that Dyster, a Democrat, lists for his first term include:

* "My administration is scandal-free. We have invested record amounts of money in fixing our streets. We have opened several new parks. We've taken on the gangs and the guns and let the criminal element know that they won't rule our streets. Our tourist area is bustling with concerts, festivals and other activities that helped make this past summer our most successful tourist season in more than 10 years."

* "Old Falls Street is reopened. We completed construction of the Public Safety Building on time and under budget. Our new train station is actually being built. Our new airport terminal promises to deliver new jobs and new visitors to our city. The Rainbow Centre shopping mall is about to roar back to life as the Niagara County Community College culinary institute."

Two candidates who have announced that they plan to challenge Dyster are Carnell Burch and Ferris "Jim" Anthony.

Burch is CEO of a youth mentoring program called TP2 at Harry F. Abate Elementary School. Burch, a lifelong resident of Niagara Falls, holds a bachelor's degree in political science and a master's in executive leadership from Daemen College and an associate's degree in criminal justice from NCCC.

"I believe that Niagara Falls has been without sound leadership for the past 20 years, and it is time to move the city into the right direction," he said in a letter announcing his candidacy. Burch said he would seek endorsements from the Democratic and Working Families parties.

Anthony, supervisor of heating, ventilating and air conditioning for the City of Niagara Falls, also is a lifelong resident of the city. He has served as president of Local 9434, United Steelworkers, since 2001, representing civil service and hourly city employees.

Anthony, a Democrat, said he wants to attract large and small businesses to the city. "I truly believe I can send this city in a different direction," he said.

School Board member Johnny G. Destino, who has been widely mentioned as a potential candidate for mayor, has made no public announcement. However, he said, "I have been approached by several people to discuss a mayoral candidacy, and I am seriously considering entering the race."

Speculation among political insiders is that Destino probably will begin a campaign for mayor after next month's School Board election and budget referendum. He is finishing the first year of a five-year term on the School Board, so his seat does not come up for election this year.

Destino said that if he does run for mayor, he will seek the nominations of the Republican, Conservative and Independence parties.

Two men who have been mentioned as potential candidates for mayor have ruled themselves out.

City Councilman Sam Fruscione, a Democrat, said he had considered running but decided against it because he did not "want to walk away from a 20-year career as a teacher to become mayor." He is paid $82,447 a year as a fifth-grade teacher at Harry F. Abate Elementary School and $12,000 a year for his part-time post on the City Council.

"As a councilman, I believe I can be just as effective if not more effective than the current mayor," Fruscione said.

Former City Judge Robert M. Restaino, also mentioned as a potential mayoral candidate, plans to run instead for a seat on the School Board. Friends said he has sent out invitations for a fundraising event for his School Board campaign at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in the Como Restaurant.

Restaino, who has not yet filed the necessary petition to become a candidate for a seat on the School Board, has until Wednesday to do so. Ballot positions for School Board candidates will be decided Thursday.

Also mentioned as a possible mayoral candidate is former Councilman John G. Accardo, operator of an insurance agency on Pine Avenue. Accardo said he was giving the Democratic Party's mayoral nomination "careful consideration" while still assessing "various options."

He said he also was considering running for a seat in the Assembly. He narrowly defeated former Assemblywoman Francine Delmonte, D-Lewiston, for the 2010 Democratic Party nomination for her Assembly seat, but he lost to John D. Ceretto, R-Lewiston, in the general election.

e-mail: rbaldwin@buffnews.com

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