Niagara Gazette — A bid by local Democrats to end the GOP’s decade-old dominance in the Niagara County Legislature came up short on Tuesday.
In a year when the Niagara County Democratic Committee fielded challengers in the bulk of the districts held by Republicans and their affiliates, the party managed to pick up just one seat — the Third District in the LaSalle section of the city.
Unofficial results from the Niagara County Board of Elections show Republicans and their affiliates in either the Conservative or Independence parties, held 11 of the 12 districts they controlled heading into the general election. As a result, the Republican-led caucus will continue to enjoy a majority by a 11-4 margin starting in 2014.
In the Third District, endorsed Democrat Mark Grozio, an assistant business manager of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 237, defeated incumbent Republican Cheree Copelin, a teacher in the Falls school district. Unofficial results showed Grozio beating Copelin, 1,487 to 1,224.
”I think all the walking and debating door-to-door with the residents of LaSalle was huge,” Grozio said after results were announced late Tuesday. “I think the people were hungry for change to be honest. I’m happy and proud to serve the residents of LaSalle. The people of LaSalle voted and they wanted change.”
In other parts of the city, legislative districts will remain unchanged.
Incumbent Democrats Dennis Virtuoso (6th District), Jason Zona (Fifth District) and Owen Steed (Fourth District) all survived challenges from Republican opponents.
Zona downed Republican challenger Giulio Colangelo, 1,669 to 1,109, to maintain his hold on the Fifth District seat representing part of Niagara Falls and the Town of Niagara.
Zona credited his opponent with running a touch race and said he’d like to see Democrats and Republicans alike will be able to come together and make county government more responsive to the needs of taxpayers.
“I think there’s still a lot of work to do in the county,” he said. “I’m hoping in my second term we can do more as a whole in the legislature to benefit the county. I think we have opportunities, especially in Niagara Falls, for growth.”
Steed, who earned a second term on Tuesday, was involved in a three-way race to retain his seat against Republican Candace Corsaro and Saladin Allah, a local author and youth mentor who ran on minor party lines, including one of his own creation, the Niagara Youth Party. Steed secured 675 votes, with Corsaro earning 289 and Allah receiving 243.
“As I said, the city is moving forward,” Steed said, echoing a message he delivered during his campaign. “It’s going to keep moving forward with the people we have in office.”
In the Sixth District, Virtuoso, a 22-year veteran of county government who serves as minority leader in the legislature, defeated endorsed Republican challenger David Zajac, 1,016 to 703.
Majority Leader Richard E. Updegrove was re-elected to his sixth term, beating challenger Anthony Molinaro by a 1,355- 888 vote.
Updegrove was thankful for the support, saw Tuesday’s results as confirmation that voters are behind what the Legislature has done over the past few years.
“I see it as a vote of confidence,” he said. “I appreciate that the community has confidence in the Legislature and its polices that have been implemented.”
A complete rundown of other legislative races in and around Niagara Falls is as follows:
n First District: (Lewiston and Porter) Incumbent lawmaker and Legislature Vice Chairman Clyde Burmaster held on to his seat, defeating Democratic challenger and United Steel Workers Local 9424-1 President Christopher Ferrante, 1,766 to 874.
n Second District: (Towns of Wheatfield and Lewiston) — Legislature Chairman William Ross, C-Wheatfield, downed Democratic challenger and Unifrax employee Sean O’Laughlin, 1,344 to 1,052.
n Seventh District: (Wheatfield) — GOP incumbent Kathryn Lance turned away challenger, Michael NeMoyer, 1,513 to 808.
n Eighth District: (North Tonawanda) — Richard Andres, who appeared on the Republican, Conservative and Independence party lines, defeated Gregg Schnitzer, 1,257 to 549.
n 10th District :(Lewiston, Wilson and Cambria) — Incumbent lawmaker David Godfrey of Wilson beat Christopher Srock, also of Wilson, 1,617 to 775.