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Maziarz to face primary challenger

A Niagara Falls attorney and School Board member will challenge George D. Maziarz in a Republican primary for the state senator's long-held Niagara, Orleans and Monroe County seat.

Johnny G. Destino, who unsuccessfully challenged Niagara Falls Mayor Paul A. Dyster in November, will now turn his aim to Maziarz -- Dyster's chief rival -- with the backing of Buffalo developer Carl P. Paladino.

Destino's candidacy is part of Paladino's effort to defeat Republican senators in Albany he deems too loyal to Majority Leader Dean Skelos or too willing to compromise with statewide Democrats.

"I see a young, spirited man who wants to do his public service," Paladino said of Destino. "He's well-intentioned, well-balanced on issues, somewhat of a moderate, who I believe will not be tainted by the Albany establishment mentality that has been adopted by George Maziarz's friends and family club."

Paladino, the former Republican gubernatorial candidate, has pledged to help finance Destino's campaign against Maziarz, who serves as vice president pro tempore of the Senate and has held his seat since 1995.

"I believe Albany needs to be turned upside down in order for us to begin straightening out our priorities," Destino said. "First we have to remove career politicians who have long forgotten whose interests they were elected to serve."

Destino said his focus will be repealing unfunded state mandates, calling for Medicaid reform and bringing jobs to the region.

"The solution is not a billion dollar regionalism plan where the government still controls which projects get approved, which contractors get the work," Destino said. "The solution is just to lower property taxes, lower the cost of energy. Just getting government out of the way -- they don't need to be involved with every project. Make it affordable to do business here without going through the regulatory hurdles."

Destino, 35, lost to Dyster by fewer than 700 votes in November. He said Maziarz's political organization promised him support but reneged before the election.

He has served on the School Board, where he entered as a reform candidate vowing to make changes and end nepotism. He drew criticism of the board when he filed a petition challenging the appointment of the daughter of the school district's attorney as human resources director.

He said he doesn't expect county Republican support but could receive a boost from tea party activists in Niagara and Erie counties. He also plans to seek the Conservative Party endorsement.

"If the tea party activists are serious about reforming Albany, I think we can pull it off," he said. "The entrenched [Republican] party members will be the most motivated to keep the status quo."

Destino said the state's same-sex marriage law is one example of where Republican senators compromised with Democrats at the expense of their ideals.