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Former Falls GOP chairman endorses Destino, slams Ortt

NIAGARA FALLS – Robert Krause, former chairman of the Niagara Falls Republican Committee, said Thursday he wants Democrat Johnny G. Destino to win the 62nd District State Senate seat over Republican Robert G. Ortt.

Krause said Ortt isn’t leveling with voters about his position on gun control, charging that Ortt, the North Tonawanda mayor, supported a pro-gun control effort led by then-New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg in December 2012.

That came in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Conn., which led to New York’s adoption of the SAFE Act the following month.

Both Ortt and Destino have said they favor the SAFE Act’s repeal, although Destino has said he supports some of its provisions.

Krause also criticized Ortt for receiving large donations from many of the large downstate companies that used to make contributions to retiring incumbent state Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-Newfane. He said many are in the energy field, and that might prevent Ortt from trying to pursue policies that would reduce upstate energy prices.

“That’s why I’m fighting against Ortt,” Krause said.

Destino has frequently criticized the New York Power Authority for not doing enough to reduce high electric bills here.

Destino spokesman Tony Farina said, “If Johnny wins, that’s going to be at the top of his list. We certainly appreciate this endorsement, and we’ll do our best to return this seat to its rightful place representing the people of Western New York and not the downstate special interests who have taken so much of an interest in this race.”

Local newspapers reported on Christmas Day 2012, that Ortt had signed a letter from Bloomberg’s group Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which sought laws that would require a criminal background check on every gun buyer; a ban on “assault weapons and high-capacity magazines that enable mass killing”; and making gun trafficking a federal offense with “stiff penalties for those who arm criminals.”

But before 2012 was over, Ortt issued a news release saying he never signed anything and disavowing any involvement with Bloomberg’s group.

He said in that release, “I did not personally sign any letter and I am very upset that my name would be associated with this letter or with this organization. While I was deeply saddened and angered by the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., I am equally saddened and angered by those seeking to politicize this tragedy in order to push a political agenda that restricts our Second Amendment rights. I have sent an email to Mayors Against Illegal Guns and asked that my name be removed from their email distribution list and from any correspondence. I never joined that organization, and I do not share their agenda.”

Thursday, Ortt said in an email to The Buffalo News, “Mayor Bloomberg’s group was a farce, and my rebuke of his organization was celebrated by the Second Amendment community in 2012. Perhaps Johnny Destino should focus more on figuring out his own position on the SAFE Act and less about my staunch opposition to this terrible law.”

Asked how his name got on Bloomberg’s list, Ortt declined to explain. “The statement speaks for itself,” he said.

Krause said he was forced out as Falls GOP leader last year by the Maziarz-controlled county Republican organization for steering an independent course.

He said he backed Carl P. Paladino for governor in the 2010 primary, when the county GOP was officially supporting Rick Lazio. Krause endorsed Destino, who was then a Republican, for Falls mayor in 2011 when GOP leaders had made a deal with then-Democrat John G. Accardo; and he backed Destino again when he challenged Maziarz in the 2012 GOP primary.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com