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Challengers’ last-minute ads target Grisanti

A flurry of new and decidedly negative ads are flooding the airwaves and mailboxes of the 60th State Senate District in the last days of election season as two challengers attempt to bounce incumbent Republican Mark J. Grisanti, running on the Independence line.

In a race that one GOP source on Friday called “shifting,” the negative ads seem to reflect new strength shown by Republican Kevin T. Stocker and the fading position of Democrat Marc C. Panepinto. The source said one poll, which he acknowledged stems from Republican efforts, shows Stocker leading the contest by a small margin over Grisanti, with Panepinto fading into third place.

That could explain the new attack from the Panepinto campaign, which is releasing a 30-second television ad reminding voters that Grisanti – a criminal defense attorney – is defending in court men arrested in his own district on drug charges.

While the senator says all suspects are entitled to representation by a lawyer, the ad reflects criticism by Grisanti’s neighbors about his dual role, reported earlier this year by The Buffalo News.

The ad also recalls a now-famous 2012 brawl in which Grisanti found himself at the Seneca Niagara Casino in Niagara Falls, emphasizing that while he claims to be “fighting” for Erie County residents, it’s “for all the wrong reasons.”

A Democratic source said the Panepinto campaign plans to spend about $50,000 on the local ads.

Meanwhile, the Republican State Committee this week mailed fliers to 60th District voters depicting zombies lining up at the polls and asks: “Dead people voting?”

The arrival of the fliers, just in time for Halloween, recalls Panepinto’s 2001 conviction on charges that the names of dead people were signed on his designating petitions for the Democratic county committee. Panepinto paid a $500 fine and was suspended from practicing law for 30 days as a result of the misdemeanor conviction.

The new ad incorrectly claims, however, that Panepinto forged the signatures of dead people on the petitions.