By Mark Scheer
Niagara Gazette — The Niagara Falls Democratic Party has a new leader.
Just days after members of the Niagara County Democratic Committee returned former Chairman Nick Forster to to his old post, party leaders in the city selected Falls native and former state senate staffer to lead them.
Members of the city's committee voted Wednesday to name Nick D'Aloise, an employee at the county Board of Elections who spent two years working for former state Sen. Antoine Thompson, as chairman. D'Aloise replaces outgoing city party chairman David Houghton, who held the post for the past two years.
D'Aloise has a degree in political science and environmental studies and has worked on several local campaigns in recent years, including Mayor Paul Dyster's successful re-election bid. He also served as campaign manager for the 2011 campaign of former city council candidate Alicia Laible, who lost in a close race to current Councilman Glenn Choolokian.
D'Aloise said he's looking to bring a hard-working attitude to the job and hopes he'll be able to work with Forster and other party members to improve the success rates of future Democratic candidates in Niagara.
"I think people know I have a reputation as being a hard worker," he said. "This isn't an end game for me. I'm just looking to help the community, not climb any ladder."
What does he consider the Democrats' biggest need, both in the city and the county?
In a word: Unity. D'Aloise said he's looking to work with Forster to build stronger sense of unity among party members countywide, an effort that he believes will help local Democrats raise funds, find volunteers and secure other resources needed to win elections.
"There needs to be a greater sense of camaraderie and unity among the committee members,” D"Aloise said. "By doing that, it makes it easier to get the support to run proper campaigns."
While disappointed that he will no longer be serving as city chairman, Houghton said he had no hard feelings and wished his successor well.
"Nick's a good guy," said Houghton. "He's a decent guy and an honest guy and he works very hard. I'm really fine with Nick."
Houghton was also a key player in the successful effort to secure a second term for Dyster and was a strong supporter of Laible as well. Houghton said he leaves the job with no big regrets.
"I know I worked very hard," Houghton said. "I tried to bring ethics to the situation. We tried to endorse candidates on their ideals and I'm not ashamed of anything I did as chair. I'm not saying everything I did was 100 percent right, but there's no glaring mistakes as far as I'm concerned."
Forster received the endorsement as chair from county Democrats during the party's annual reorganizational meeting. He assumed the top position from Jeremy Schnurr, a North Tonawanda attorney who had been serving in the role as interim chair. The final vote followed what was described as an at-times contentious meeting involving supporters for both Forster and Schnurr and several weeks of negative campaign aimed at preventing Forster from returning to the job he previously held from 1996 to 2002.
On Thursday, Forster said he believes the Democratic Party as a whole in Niagara County is beginning to move in a new and better direction after several years of failing to topple GOP candidates in key political posts, including the county and state legislatures.
"I think all of the sudden we have this Democratic fever going on," Forster said.
He described D'Aloise as the kind of "young, bright, energetic" person the party can build around.
"We're excited," Forster said. "There's a lot of what we call newbies on the committee matched with some of the old guard. I think our vision is set in the right direction."
Houghton said he intends to stay active in politics locally, adding that he hopes the new leaders are able to improve the success of future Democratic candidates in both the Falls and the county as a whole.
"I hope the Niagara County and Niagara Falls Democrats start working together to further the ideas of the Democratic Party and to find good, qualified candidates versus all the animosity and in-fighting," Houghton said. "I want to see the party focused on beating the Republicans, not beating themselves and disenfranchising good Democrats."