By Justin Sondel firstname.lastname@example.org
Niagara Gazette — A former Niagara County lawmaker has positioned himself to take a run at one of three Niagara Falls City Council seats up for grabs this fall.
Vincent Sandonato, who represented a city district in the county legislature for one term, was chosen by a committee to fill vacancies to replace Tim Hutchins.
Hutchins successfully petitioned to be placed on the ballot on the Republican line, but has since bowed out of the race.
Sandonato, who will enter his final year of law school at the University at Buffalo this fall after transferring from the University of Dayton, said he is entering the race because he wants to move the city forward from the political bickering that holds it back.
“It was aggravating to see a city with so much potential being wasted on political rhetoric,” Sandonato said.
Sandonato will join Robert Elder, a registered Democrat, and Russell Vesci as the endorsed Republican candidates vying for the available council seats.
Elder owns a legal document processing company with his wife and Vesci is an employee of the Niagara Falls Water Board.
Hutchins, Elder and Vesci all appeared on a joint petition that received 644 signatures, more than double the required 251 to secure a Republican line.
Sandonato enjoyed success during his previous campaign in heavily Democratic Niagara Falls, beating Democrat Nick Melson, one-time aide to former state Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte, to take the legislature seat in 2009.
Sandonato said he is confident that he can win in the Democratic stronghold again because he is more interested in working towards mutually beneficial solutions than playing party politics.
“My goal as a legislator and my goal as a council member is to provide people with a choice,” Sandonato said.
Sandonato is also seeking endorsements from the Independence Party and the Conservative Party, he said.
The three Republicans will be up against four Democrats, including incumbents Sam Fruscione, Kristen Grandinetti and Charles Walker. They will be challenged in a September primary by political newcomer Andrew Touma for the three available Democratic lines.
Grandinetti, Fruscione and Touma all work for the Niagara Falls School District while Walker works as a manager of community outreach for Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center.
Walker is the longest serving member of the council, having joined the governing body in 1999. Fruscione is seeking a third term and Grandinetti is trying for a second term.
All four candidates successfully filed petitions with more than the 802 signatures required before last Thursday’s 5 p.m. deadline.
Walker submitted 1,596 signatures, Touma submitted 1,576 signatures, Fruscione turned in 1,506 signatures and Grandinetti presented 1,142 signatures.
The Niagara Falls Democratic Committee announced last week that it would not endorse any candidates, but would support the three candidates who get the most votes in the September primary.
“After a year of serious taxpayer opposition to the actions of the city council, the committee voted to forego endorsements and leave it to the people of Niagara Falls to pick their candidates from a wide field,” Chairwoman Alicia Laible, said in a statement. “Who better to decide the future of this party than the taxpayers themselves?”
Contact reporter Justin Sondel at 282-2311, ext. 2257