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Choolokian runs again for Niagara Falls mayor, this time as a Republican

A former city councilman who lost a 2015 Democratic primary for mayor of Niagara Falls by 63 votes has entered this year's mayoral race as a Republican.

Glenn A. Choolokian made the announcement Wednesday night.

"Sometimes, people are so frustrated that they are tempted to throw up their hands in disgust and walk away. I understand their feelings," Choolokian said.

Choolokian, who also lost a mayoral bid in 2003 and served on the City Council from 2012 through 2015, thought he was done with elective politics.

"It was a heartbreaker," Choolokian said of his 2015 defeat. "I didn't think I'd run again."

But he thinks he has a base of support in the city. After his narrow primary loss to Mayor Paul A. Dyster, Choolokian mounted a write-in effort in the 2015 general election and was officially credited with 1,291 votes, or nearly 14 percent of the total.

"I had almost 2,000 write-ins," he claimed. "They had to spell Choolokian right for it to count and if they didn't, it was thrown out. It's not Smith."

He said he's heard from people who want him to try again.

Choolokian, 52, has changed his party affiliation since the last election. He said he re-registered as a Republican because the GOP on the national level suits him better than the Democrats do.

"My beliefs always were conservative. I'm like an old-school guy," Choolokian said.

He said he will emphasize fiscal issues in his campaign. Choolokian said city leaders have misused their share of Seneca Niagara Casino slot machine revenue for years.

"It's like hitting the lottery. We should have a surplus," Choolokian said.

When payments were cut off by the Senecas in 2016, the city faced the potential of massive spending cuts or tax increases. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo promised a bailout last fall, and an arbitration panel ruled last month the Senecas were required to resume payments.

Choolokian, employed by the Niagara Falls Water Board for 32 years, works as a buildings and grounds crew leader at the wastewater treatment plant.

He is the first Republican to enter the mayoral race. Board of Education President Robert M. Restaino and Community Development Director Seth A. Piccirillo, both Democrats, have announced candidacies, while Dyster, in the final year of his third term, has been mum on his plans.

Niagara Falls Republican Chairman William Carroll expressed interest last month in endorsing Restaino.

"I'd be very disappointed if they gave the Republican line to a Democrat," Choolokian said.

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