NIAGARA FALLS – The campaign of Democratic State Senate candidate Johnny G. Destino said Monday that a reduction in the candidate’s rating by a pro-gun group was the result of a political “conspiracy.”
The flap came as Destino and his Republican opponent in the 62nd District, North Tonawanda Mayor Robert G. Ortt, prepare for their final face-to-face meeting.
The session is set for 6 p.m. Wednesday in the Niagara Falls Public Library, 1425 Main St. The questions will be posed by Niagara University professor Corey Bower from suggestions emailed to him. at email@example.com.
Destino spokesman Tony Farina noted the announcement that the Niagara County chapter of the Shooters Committee on Political Education was cutting Destino’s rating from an A to a C-minus came not from SCOPE but from the Ortt campaign.
Farina said it looked to him as if County Legislator John Syracuse, R-Newfane, put SCOPE up to reducing its official opinion of Destino. The group has given Ortt an A-plus rating.
“My opponent will stop at nothing to try and win the seat,” Destino said. “This whole SCOPE downgrade conspiracy is another example of the kind of dirty tricks that his campaign has been playing from the start.”
The Ortt campaign’s press release on the issue quoted Syracuse and SCOPE co-chairman John Peracciny.
Syracuse, perhaps the County Legislature’s most fervent gun rights supporter, did not return calls for comment Monday, but Peracciny said the initial rating of Destino was premature and drew protests from SCOPE members. Syracuse is a member of the organization.
“Mr. Destino has surrounded himself with the same politicians who proudly support the SAFE Act, and he cannot be trusted to lead the fight for repeal,” Syracuse said in the news release.
Peracciny said Destino paid $25 to join SCOPE and signed its anti-SAFE Act pledge card, which is why he received the A rating, but Peracciny said that shouldn’t have been good enough.
He said Destino drew the group’s ire a few weeks ago, when he said he was “delighted” to accept the endorsements of Niagara Falls Mayor Paul A. Dyster and Rep. Brian Higgins.
“Those are anti-gun people …” Peracciny said. “If you befriend those people and say you’re delighted, you’re going to get called out on that.”
Destino has said he favors repeal of the SAFE Act, the state’s controversial 2013 gun control law. He questions some provisions he considers unconstitutional.