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Falls race ruling puts Accardo on Democratic primary ballot

John G. Accardo received approval Tuesday to run for mayor of Niagara Falls in the Democratic primary, as the Niagara County Board of Elections rejected a challenge to the validity of his nominating petitions.

David C. Houghton, chairman of the Niagara Falls City Democratic Party, charged that the decision and other rulings against challenges he has filed to non-endorsed Democratic candidates were politically motivated.

"I think Dave Houghton should find another line of work," scoffed Accardo, the former City Council chairman.

Accardo submitted petitions with a total of 1,148 signatures, well over the minimum of 804 needed to qualify for the Democratic ballot.

Houghton, who is supporting incumbent Mayor Paul A. Dyster, challenged 400 signatures. But Democratic Elections Commissioner Nancy L. Smith said she and Mary Ann L. Casamento, her Republican counterpart, threw out only 42 signatures.

Still, most of the others survived on a split decision, with Smith voting to disallow them and Casamento voting to uphold them. When commissioners disagree in such a vote, the signature is allowed to stand.

"I find it unusual that all of the challenges we've filed were rejected on a split decision," Houghton said. "The challenges we filed were not frivolous. To me, it's a disgrace."

"I ruled the way I felt was right," Casamento said. "He made his challenges, and we ruled accordingly. He's entitled to his opinion."

"I had every bit of confidence they we were going to be OK," Accardo said.

Houghton has charged that Republicans, who have nominated Johnny G. Destino, secretly are backing the Accardo campaign to bring down Dyster.

"No other candidate challenged anybody's petition, but he challenged everyone's petition," Accardo said of Houghton. "They try to use their own interpretation to try to beat everybody at the Board of Elections rather than letting the people decide."

"We're painstaking to follow Election Law," Houghton said. "If you can't follow Election Law, what can we expect when you're in office?"

Tuesday's ruling means the Democratic mayoral primary will involve at least three candidates: Dyster, Accardo and Norton J. Douglas. The petitions of a fourth candidate, Carnell Burch Sr., remain under review.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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