Niagara Gazette — John Ceretto and Robert Restaino sat next to one another on stage at the Earl W. Brydges Library for last week's Niagara Falls Block Club Council candidates forum but they barely acknowledged each other.
In fact, there seemed to be a lasting tension between them as they gave their answers to questions ranging from the economy to discrimination. But it existed long before the candidates for the 145th state Assembly District met on stage that night.
In recent weeks, a healthy dose of animosity has developed in the race, driven in part by the Republican committee's decision to send out mailers portraying Restaino, the Democratic challenger, as a "petty tyrant" and reminding voters of his involvement in a March 2005 incident where, as a sitting city court judge, he held 46 people in contempt of court while searching for the source of a ringing cell phone in his courtroom.
Ceretto, the Republican incumbent from Lewiston who is seeking a second term in Albany, said the advertisement was fair because every candidate is as good as his record. Restaino and many of his supporters disagree, suggesting Ceretto should have been focused on the issues facing the district, not a "campaign of personal destruction."
"Everything I have said is public record," Ceretto said. "This isn't a personal attack on him. This has all been reported in local papers, (the Niagara Gazette) did it when he decided to run. It's his record."
The 52-year-old Restaino, meanwhile, understands the mistake he made and continues to try to make up for what happened. He was removed from his judgeship in 2008 by an independent commission that reviewed his actions behind the bench.
Restaino said he understands the punishment and lives with it, but also feels he's answered for it plenty of times. He feels his work on the Niagara Falls school board and in private practice as an attorney better reflects the type of person he really is and said the incident will not have any bearing on his effectiveness as a lawmaker, if elected.