EARLY RETURNS

 The Wilson Fire Hall was very busy as voters came and went Tuesday afternoon. 

It may take until the middle of July before Niagara County residents know which of two candidates for a seat on the county court bench will be running on which party lines in the November general election.

But it appears in the countywide race for the Democratic party endorsement for sheriff, that acting Sheriff Michael Filicetti, a registered Republican, has moved out to a significant lead in balloting conducted at a reduced number of polling sites in New York's COVID delayed primary election on Tuesday.

As totals from in-person voting flowed slowly into the Niagara County Board of Elections offices in Lockport, officials confirmed that they had filled requests for close to 19,000 absentee ballots. As of Tuesday, some 11,500 of those ballots had been returned. 

The extraordinary number of absentee ballots will mean most primary races will hinge on that tally.

In the Democratic primary for sheriff, with close to 50 percent of the county polling sites reporting, Filicetti held a better than 2-to-1 lead over his opponent, former sheriff's deputy and current Lewiston Police Department Officer Brian Grear. 

"I think the numbers are looking good," Filicetti said. Most of them are from the eastern end of the county and I think I'll do even better in the western end, so we'll see. But I'm very happy."

At press time about 3,200 votes had been counted in the race and the Board of Elections reported that they had received 7,062 absentee Democratic ballots to count. However, Filicetti noted that absentee ballots, as a general trend line, tend to break along the same percentages as in-person ballots.

Calls to Grear's campaign manager, Bill Nye, seeking comment, went unanswered.

The county court primary saw current Niagara County District Attorney Caroline Wojtaszek battling Michael Benedict, the confidential law clerk to Judge Sara Sheldon. The candidates were facing off on eight different party lines. 

In an example of the fluid nature of the voting this year, Wojtazsek, a registered Democrat, was leading Benedict, the endorsed Democratic candidate in that party's primary. At the same time, Benedict, a registered Democrat, was leading Wojtaszek, the endorsed Republican candidate in the GOP primary. 

Between the two major parties there are close to 11,000 absentee ballots to be counted.

Neither of the judicial candidates, nor their representatives answered calls seeking comment on the balloting. 

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