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Niagara Falls mayoral contest strays from convention

NIAGARA FALLS – In a city historically unkind to mayoral incumbents, Democrat Paul A. Dyster’s almost eight years in office mean voters have had plenty of chances to find something they don’t like about his administration.

Republican John G. Accardo, a former city councilman who’s run for mayor twice before as a Democrat, has denounced the Dyster administration, saying the city needs new leadership.

Glenn A. Choolokian’s name won’t be on the ballot for Niagara Falls mayor on Tuesday, but he believes a write-in campaign will bring him victory. Choolokian, who lost by a mere 63 votes in the Democratic primary against Dyster, threw a wrench in the contest by staying in the race.

In a place where many things stray from convention, so too does this year’s race for mayor. In the end, voters will choose from among three candidates who emerged out of an often-disjointed campaign season that included lawsuits over the validity of petitions and a highly scrutinized count of absentee ballots.

Choolokian, whose first, full four-year term on the Council expires at the end of the year, said he’s waging a write-in campaign to win, and he’s not just there to be a spoiler.

“The Democrats and Republicans do not want me there because they can’t control me and they can’t make no money off Mr. Choolokian,” Choolokian said during a debate last month.

Choolokian served one year on the Council in 2005. He won his current term in 2011 after losing in the Democratic primary but running on the Republican, Conservative and Independence lines.

Choolokian, 48, works for the Niagara Falls Water Board.

In order to cast a vote for Choolokian, it won’t be as simple as filling in a circle next to his name. Voters will have to write his name, with correct spelling, in the write-in box on the ballot.

Choolokian’s campaign calls the process “simple” on its website, diagramming with red arrows on a sample ballot where the candidate’s name has to be written.

Accardo, 60, served nine years on the City Council, ran for mayor in 1999 and 2011 and has also run for Assembly. He has the Republican, Conservative, Independence and Reform lines. He switched from the Democratic to the Republican party after the 2011 mayor’s race.

The owner of a Pine Avenue insurance agency, he has expressed concern about the city’s financial situation, saying he believes the city may have to face the implementation of a state-appointed control board sometime in the coming years.

“It’s right around the corner. It’s coming faster than we think,” Accardo said during the Oct. 14 debate sponsored by the Niagara Gazette.

Dyster, 61, served a four-year term on the Council from 2000 through 2003. He has the Democratic, Green and Working Families lines in this race.

The two-term incumbent said he believes his administration has restored the faith of other levels of government in the city of Niagara Falls. Dyster said he’s running on his record and, though he believes progress has been made in his two terms, says there’s still work to do. He said he’s not satisfied with the state of the city.

“I’m seeking a third term, but I still view myself as the change agent in this race,” Dyster said in the debate.

Beyond this campaign, these candidates have gotten to know each other pretty well.

Dyster and Choolokian have run against each other for mayor before, as have Dyster and Accardo.

Dyster, and Accardo faced off in a Democratic primary in 2011. Choolokian and Dyster were part of a four-way Democratic primary for mayor in 2003, a race won by former Mayor Vince V. Anello.

When Dyster won a second term in 2011, he became the first mayor re-elected in two decades.

City Council race

Five candidates will appear on Tuesday’s ballot in the race for two City Council seats: Robert A. Anderson Jr., Alicia M. Laible, Willie A. Price, Ezra P. Scott Jr. and Kenneth M. Tompkins.

Anderson and Scott won a four-way Democratic primary. Laible, who came in third in the primary, remains on three minor party lines, while Price and Tompkins are running on the Republican line.

Anderson, the incumbent in the race, revealed earlier this month he’s been diagnosed with stage IV stomach cancer, which has spread to other organs and caused him to lose 35 pounds in a two- to three-week span.

Anderson, 73, said at the time he’s not dropping out of the race. He has served three terms on the Council.

Laible, 32, will appear on the Conservative, Green and Working Families lines. She is director of network development for Elderwood Health Plan, a managed long-term care company, and executive director of Elderwood Transportation. She also is a former city Democratic Committee chairwoman.

Price, a property manager, inspector and trainer, is running on the Republican line. The 53-year-old also is a member of the city’s Tourism Advisory Board.

Scott, the top vote-getter in the Democratic primary, also has the Working Families line. Scott, 29, is a substitute teacher in Falls schools and a youth mentor for the Niagara Falls Housing Authority.

Tompkins is operations manager for H.W. Bryk & Sons, a plumbing, heating and cooling contractor. The 52-year-old is on the Republican, Conservative, Green, Independence and Reform lines.

Choolokian, the other Council incumbent, chose to run for mayor instead of a Council seat.

Polling places in Niagara County will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. To look up your polling place, visit vic.ntsdata.com/niagaraboe/pollingplacelookup.aspx

email: abesecker@buffnews.com