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Three Democrats allowed to run as Conservatives for Falls offices

Three Democrats not endorsed by their party for city office, including mayoral candidate John G. Accardo, were kept on the Conservative Party's ballot line this week by a State Supreme Court ruling.

Justice Frank Caruso also barred further court challenges to the Democratic petitions submitted by Accardo and Carnell Burch Sr., another mayoral candidate. But the Niagara County Board of Elections has yet to rule on whether those petitions are valid.

They were challenged by David C. Houghton, city Democratic Party chairman, who is backing Mayor Paul A. Dyster for re-election.

Matthew M. Cole, meanwhile, remained in the Democratic primary for 3rd District Niagara County legislator.

His opponent, John P. Briglio, said he was considering an appeal of the ruling by Justice Ralph A. Boniello III.

Houghton was fuming after Caruso dismissed his suits against the Board of Elections because they were filed too late.

Houghton served his suit Monday, but the deadline for such a court action is two weeks after the petition deadline date of July 14 -- in other words, July 28 -- even though the board hadn't ruled on the petitions.

"It was a slam dunk," said John R. Drexelius, the attorney representing the Board of Elections.

"They won on a technicality," said Houghton, referring to Accardo, Councilman Robert A. Anderson Jr. and Council hopeful Glenn A. Choolokian. All now have the Conservative line in the November election.

Anderson and Choolokian have the GOP endorsement and spots in the Democratic primary.

By a split decision, Commissioners Nancy L. Smith, a Democrat, and Mary Ann L. Casamento, a Republican, ruled Tuesday that the three Conservative petitions were good. When the commissioners disagree, a petition stands.

"I have no problem with the judge. Caruso's a fair guy from all accounts," said Houghton, whose Democratic Committee endorsed Dyster along with Alicia M. Laible and Donald A. Zambotti for Council seats.

Houghton challenged 400 of Accardo's 1,148 signatures and 538 of Burch's 1,197. The minimum number of valid signatures needed is 804. Smith and Casamento said the soonest they will rule is Monday.

"I don't have confidence that politics won't get involved," said Houghton, who contends the Republicans have colluded with the Democratic opponents of Dyster to hurt the mayor's chances of re-election.

Johnny G. Destino, the Republican nominee for mayor, attended Thursday's court session and sat with Burch. But Destino denied any preference in the Democratic fight, which also includes Norton J. Douglas, whose petitions passed muster.

"I was simply there to observe the proceedings," Destino said. "As you know, I'm an attorney. I was curious how this process works. They've got their own primary. It doesn't affect me."

In the County Legislature race, Briglio, a registered Republican authorized to run by Democratic leaders, had challenged 45 of the 272 signatures Cole submitted. The board threw out 15 and reduced the valid number to 257, 14 more than the minimum 243 needed to qualify.

By Drexelius' math, after Boniello refereed a two-hour slog through the petitions, Cole was left with 246 valid signatures.

Briglio said about 20 more signatures could have been deleted. "I'm not ruling out [an appeal]," he said.

"Mr. Briglio does not want to let the people of the Democratic Party decide who will represent them," said Cole, who acted as his own attorney. "He's not a registered member of this party."