By Justin Sondel
Niagara Gazette —
It's a rematch in this year's race for the New York state Senate's 62nd District.
Nine-term incumbent George Maziarz, R-Newfane, is once again facing a challenge from retired Lewiston bank executive Amy Hope Witryol. Maziarz heads into Election Day with the backing of the Republican, Conservative and Independence parties. Witryol has the endorsement of both the Democratic and Working Families parties.
Witryol, 53, grew up in Connecticut and moved to Lewiston in 1997 to take a banking position in Buffalo. She is single and has no children. Rising through the company ranks, she eventually became the senior vice president and senior risk manager for Fleet Bank. She is a member of the League of Women Voters and the New York Farm Bureau.
Maziarz, 59, maintains his primary residence in Newfane, has a second residence in Albany and shares a condominium in Florida with his wife, Beverly. The couple has two adult step-daughters, Tricia and Kristina. Maziarz grew up in North Tonawanda and has has been a public servant since he was 25 years old when he became the city clerk in his hometown.
While the candidates are the same as they were in 2010 when Maziarz defeated Witryol, the landscape of the district has changed. As part of the statewide redistricting process, the 62nd District will include the city of Niagara Falls in 2013. The winner of the race will continue to represent the rest of Niagara County, all of Orleans County and part of Western Monroe County next year.
The change in district boundaries has been an issue during the campaign, with Witryol consistently challenging her opponent's attitude toward the Falls before it became part of the Senate district. During press conferences in the run up to Election Day, she accused Maziarz of interfering with potentially beneficial projects in the city, including the downtown Culinary Arts Center which, in press reports back in 2007, Maziarz was quoted as saying belonged "where people go," specifically referring to the Frontier House in Lewiston.
"He apparently preferred a location outside the city where he could control revenue through county finances, instead of generating exponentially more revenue in the city of Niagara Falls, where he does not control finances," Witryol said during a press conference last month.
Maziarz said he was interested in exploring all options for the culinary center — Lewiston included — years ago when the project was first being advanced. He also insists he put his full support behind the idea to put the center inside the old Rainbow Centre Mall building once it appeared as though that would be the best option.
He has consistently said that he has no problem with the city and looks forward to representing it and taking on the challenge of helping it improve.
He maintains that he's done so already by working to support various initiatives, including this summer's walk across the Falls by aerialist Nik Wallenda which he notes garnered global attention for the area. Maziarz has been credited by Wallenda for helping to push through legislation that allowed him to make the crossing. Maziarz maintains that the event provided a big boost for tourism this summer and will continue to serve as free advertisement for the region for years to come.
Maziarz says he's worked to support other projects that have helped the city and the district as a whole, including the new terminal at the Niagara Falls International Airport and the Recharge New York program, the revised version of New York's old Power for Jobs program, which Maziarz says will provide key low-cost power allocations to drive job and business creation.
At the state level, Maziarz touted his relationship with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, saying he's reached across the aisle to work with the Democratic governor to pass measures that are improving the financial condition of the state. Those measures include the 2-percent property tax cap, which state lawmakers approved last year, as well as Tier 6 pension reform for state workers. In general, he believes, the state is beginning to show greater fiscal restraint and he's confident the momentum will continue. If elected, he said he intends to continue to support measures like the consolidation of municipal governments that will save taxpayers' money longterm.
"All those things combined, which have been passed into law, will work to control property taxes," Maziarz said.
Witryol maintains that Maziarz has used his position to accrue a massive campaign fund and to pedal influence throughout the state.
"The biggest abusers of the system are our legislators in Albany," she said.
As was the case during her last campaign, Witryol says that campaign finance reform is a key issue if New York wants to stop the pay-to-play politics.
She says that for years Maziarz has been beholden to his largest donors who have helped him amass a small fortune in his campaign fund — Maziarz's election committee reported having over $811,000 in its most recent filing - and not to the constituents of his district throughout his tenure in the senate. She insists his agenda in Albany is not pro-business, but rather anti-competition.
"If we don't end this pay-to-play culture, not just in Albany but in Niagara County, we are creating a Soviet-style economy that will collapse," Witryol said.
Witryol believes that her experience as a financial crisis manager in her professional life has well prepared her for the many financial hurdles that exist for Albany. As an executive, it was her job to balance the needs and wants of many parties and come up with a plan that benefitted all of them, she said.
"It's that experience, that creativity, and the financial expertise quite frankly, that can break the impasse or find common ground to make progress, " Witryol said.NEW YORK STATE SENATE, 62ND DISTRICT George Maziarz AGE: 59 PARTY AFFILIATION: Republican PROFESSIONAL BACKGROUND: Appointed North Tonawanda city clerk in 1978 at age 25. Served as Niagara County Clerk in 1989. Nine-term incumbent who won a special election in 1995 to replace John Daly in the New York State Senate. PARTY ENDORSEMENTS: Republican, Conservative and Independence OTHER ENDORSEMENTS: National Federation of Independent Businesses, The Police Conference of New York, Inc., District Council No. 4 of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, the Business Council of New York State, Inc., Rochester Business Alliance, Unshackle Upstate and the National Rifle Association. Amy Hope Witryol AGE: 53 PARTY AFFILIATION: Democrat PROFESSIONAL BACKGROUND: Former Connecticut resident who moved to Lewiston in 1997 to accept banking position in Buffalo. Former senior vice president and senior risk manager for Fleet Bank. Current member of the League of Women Voters and the New York Farm Bureau. PARTY ENDORSEMENTS: Democrat and Working Families OTHER ENDORSEMENTS: Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter and Western New York Council of the Communications Workers of America.