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Choolokian tries to force Dyster off ballot

LOCKPORT – Supporters of the mayoral candidacy of Niagara Falls Councilman Glenn A. Choolokian have filed a lengthy challenge to the validity of the nominating petitions of Falls Mayor Paul A. Dyster.

If upheld by the Niagara County Board of Elections, the challenge could knock the two-term incumbent off the Democratic primary ballot.

The challenge questions the validity of 507 of the 1,355 individual signatures Dyster filed, as well as claiming 16 entire pages of 25 signatures each are invalid, one because it wasn’t numbered and the other 15 because of purportedly invalid witness statements.

If the election commissioners agree with enough of those complaints, Dyster’s total number of valid signatures could be reduced to a figure below the minimum 500 needed to qualify for a citywide Democratic primary in Niagara Falls.

Choolokian filed 1,743 signatures on his Democratic petitions, and they were not challenged. Choolokian supporter Samuel F. Archie wrote that 99 Dyster signatures must be invalidated because the voters in question signed Choolokian’s petitions before they signed Dyster’s. Under state law, a voter is allowed to sign only one petition for any given office.

There’s also a claim that the last 66 pages of Dyster’s petition might be invalid because of misnumbering. The Choolokian challenge, filed by. Archie, asserts that everything after page 21 is numbered wrong because a blank page was inserted between page 21 and page 22.

Numbering also could be the hang-up with the petitions filed on behalf of Democratic City Council candidates Alicia M. Laible and Ezra P. Scott Jr. They handed in 2,138 signatures on their joint petition, but an objection from voter Todd M. Stopa complains the whole petition should be thrown out because there is no cover sheet and the 112 pages aren’t numbered.

The objections also touch on more typical complaints, such as illegible signatures, addresses listed where voter registration rolls show no Democrats live, and multiple signatures by the same voter. Similar objections were lodged against the Dyster petitions.

The only challenge filed so far against a Republican candidate was brought by Somerset Councilman Randall J. Wayner against the petitions of Paul Oliveira, who wants to run against incumbent GOP Supervisor Daniel M. Engert.

Wayner asserted that many of Oliveira’s signatures don’t count because the voters gave their addresses as “Barker.” That’s the mailing address for most of Somerset, but Wayner said the law requires a voter to list a town or city, and Barker is not a town; it’s a village.

Meanwhile, some candidates filed financial disclosure forms by Wednesday’s deadline. Dyster has raised $28,356 so far this year, adding to the $17,579 he had at the start of the year. After subtracting spending for the year, Dyster has $28,651 available.

Choolokian has raised $11,238 and has $8,109 of that left. John G. Accardo, a Republican hopeful for Niagara Falls mayor, has raised $13,379 and has $9,040 left. Another GOP candidate, James J. Szwedo, has raised $1,210 and has $1,096 on hand. Robert Pascoal, the third GOP mayoral contender, did not file a report as of Friday.

In Lockport, Republican Mayor Anne E. McCaffrey reported raising $14,885, with $12,339 remaining. Democratic contenders Roger L. Sherrie and Michael J. Pillot did not file reports.

In North Tonawanda, GOP Mayor Arthur G. Pappas has raised $10,679, plus $2,208 left over from his campaign for alderman last year. Democratic candidate John S. Tylec did not file a report.

In the only countywide contest, GOP county clerk nominee Joseph A. Jastrzemski, the Wilson supervisor, has raised $12,361 and has $10,367 still on hand. Democratic candidate Jamie R. Moxham raised $6,767 and has $4,875 of that left.