A pair of Democatic mayors have issued dueling endorsements in the race for a soon to be vacant seat on the Niagara County Court bench.
Niagara Falls Mayor Robert Restaino has announced his endorsement of Niagara County District Attorney Caroline Wojtaszek in her bid, while Lockport Mayor Michelle Roman has given her support to county court law clerk Michael Benedict.
Restaino made his announcement on Friday. Roman announced her support on Monday.
Both Wojtaszek and Benedict are looking to fill the vacancy that will be created by the retirement of current Niagara County Court Judge Sara Sheldon in January. Wojtaszek is a former law clerk to Sheldon. Benedict is Sheldon's current law clerk.
Restaino noted Wojtaszek’s experience in managing high-profile cases in the district attorney's office, as well as her experience working with Sheldon.
“Throughout her tenure as Niagara County District Attorney, Caroline Wojtaszek has not only been a strong proponent of the law, she has worked tirelessly for the people of our community,” said Restaino, himself a former Falls City Court judge. “Filling the shoes of Sara Sheldon is certainly no easy task, but I couldn’t think of a better person to do so than Caroline.”
Wojtaszek has been endorsed by the Niagara County Conservative and Independence parties. A registered Democrat, she is also seeking the endorsement of her party and the Republican Party.
“Serving as a county court judge involves many levels of complexity, as well as a deep and passionate understanding of not only the law, but the impact of the decisions made by the court,” said Restaino, a Democrat. “Caroline’s experience has prepared her for a seamless transition from prosecutor to judge, and I am proud to support her candidacy.”
Roman said she believes Benedict is the most qualified candidate to succeed Sheldon.
"Mike Benedict has the experience as a deputy corporation counsel, as the law clerk to the judge he’s looking to succeed, as a former public defender, and as a former prosecutor," Roman said. " But that’s not the only reason I support his candidacy.”
Roman said the deciding factor in her endorsement was Benedict's character.
"Mike Benedict has the character necessary to do what's right by the law and in the best interest of our community as Niagara County judge," Roman said. "Mike Benedict deserves our trust because not only does he have the right background for this important job, but I also know him to be incredibly honest."
Benedict's campaign has gained momentum in recent weeks, picking up the endorsements of the both the Democratic and Working Families parties.
“Mike Benedict’s reputation (as a Lockport deputy corporation counsel) was that he listened to city employees, to department heads, to elected leaders, and compassionately applied the law while protecting Lockport’s interests,” Roman said. “We need people with Mike Benedict’s character on the bench.”