Niagara Gazette

November 4, 2013

Crowded field vies for three Niagara Falls City Council seats

By Justin Sondel justin.sondel@niagara-gazette.com
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — City voters will have an opportunity to shape the city’s legislative body choosing from a seven-candidate pool to fill three open seats in Tuesday’s general election.

With three Democratics, three Republicans and on candidate running on minor party lines voters will have a wide array of choices for the seats on the five-member panel.

Here is a rundown of the candidates:

Robert Elder is one of three endorsed Republicans on the general election ballot, but he stopped actively campaigning in early October.

Sam Fruscione, 47, is a two-term incumbent who served as chairman of the council for four of his eight years on the dais. Fruscione, a teacher at Harry F. Abate Elementary for 22 years, has been married to his wife Paula for 23 years. They have two daughters, Samantha and Erica. Fruscione has a master’s degree in education from Buffalo State University.

Fruscione, a registered Democrat, was the odd man out in a four-way primary for three Democratic lines on the general election ballot, but has continued to run his campaign on minor party line endorsements from the Conservative and Independence parties.

On why he’s running:

“The main reason for running for re-election is to continue to serve the entire community as the taxpayers’ watch dog. The community needs and deserves a voice that will ask the tough questions on their behalf. Furthermore, it is the responsibility as your council member to ensure that there are checks and balances in the government. My record for the past eight years has shown the community that I am willing to hold the line on taxes and unnecessary spending. As chairman there was never a tax increase and city services were maintained at a cost affordable to all. That is the job of a council member.”

Kristen Grandinetti, 54, is a pre-kindergarten teacher at Harry F. Abate Elementary and holds master’s degrees in education and administration from Niagara University. Grandinetti is a Democrat and is at the end of her first term on the city council.

Grandinetti secured one of the three Democratic lines in the September primary and will appear as an endorsed Democrat on the general election ballot and also holds a Working Families Party endorsement.

On why she’s running:

“I am running for re-election because I feel that we are finally in a unique position to move the city in the right direction and my work is not done. The biggest challenges the city faces are unemployment and poverty which will only change with the right development.”

Vincent Sandonato, 27, is a third-year law student at the University at Buffalo. Sandonato, a former county legislator, resigned from that post in 2011 to pursue a law degree at the University of Ohio Dayton, but returned to Western New York to attend UB earlier this year. Sandonato’s parents, Mary and Larry, have been married for 34 years.

Sandonato has one of the three Republican endorsements on the general election ballot and also holds endorsements from the Conservative, Working Families, Independence and Green parties.

On why he’s running:

“I want to be a part of the most productive city council that Niagara Falls has experienced. My intention is to focus on bringing tough issues to the forefront and finding a solution, so that the community can see results. I believe the political gridlock that we are accustomed to is not effective in reaching results. I promise not to be a part of a political bloc or new majority because it cuts off conversations and ideas from being presented. I absolutely believe the homeowners and business owners in this city deserve to see their taxes decreased. Continued outlandish spending or “holding the line” theory is not acceptable anymore.”

Andrew Touma, 45, is the dean of students at LaSalle Preparatory School and holds master’s degrees in elementary education and administration and supervision from Niagara University. Touma and his wife Jocelyn have four boys - Alex, Ben, John and Michael.

Touma, a political newcomer, is a lifelong and Democrat and was the top vote getter in the four-way primary for three Democratic lines in the September primary.

On why he’s running:

“I am running for a seat on the city council because I am committed to changing the approach to government in Niagara Falls. We need to change from the confrontational “me versus you approach”, from the “if you disagree with me on one issue we cannot work together on any issue” approach, and from the “I’ll support everything my friends and allies want but will support nothing if I don’t like you” approach. This is the only way we can move forward on important issues such as economic development, or holding the line on taxes while growing our city and still providing those services our residents need and deserve.”

Russel Vesci, 46, has been a water board employee for 21 years. He has been married to his wife Pamela for 12 years and holds degrees from Trott Vocational High School and Niagara County Community College.

Vesci, a political newcomer, holds one of three Republican lines on the general election ballot and also holds endorsements from the Conservative and Independence parties.

On why he’s running:

“I’m running for city council because I hate what has been done to our city over the past 40 years, and as a former block club president, I am more than confident in my leadership abilities and my personal interaction skills.  Also, having worked on all of our city streets and in every neighborhood I don’t feel that any other candidate is more qualified than I to know what Niagara Falls needs from the ground up.”

Charles Walker, 54, is a community outreach manager at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center. He and his wife Linda have two children and one grandchild. Walker holds a degree from Niagara Falls High School and has taken courses at Bryant and Stratton College.

Walker, who is seeking his fifth term on the council, holds one of three Democratic lines on the general election ballot, coming in second in the September primary.

On why he’s running:

“I believe the city is moving in the right direction and is ready for investment and there are developers ready to jump in. So I want to do all I can to see it through, a lot of things being proposed and done are things I talked about back in 1999 and 2000.”

Full coverage of area races inside • City council campaign contributions broken down. LOCAL, 7A • Sixth District Legislature race. LOCAL, 8A • Wheatfield supervisor's race. LOCAL, 9A • State setting up election hotline. LOCAL, 9A

Contact reporter Justin Sondel at 282-2311, ext. 2257