Just over 24 hours after Niagara County lawmaker Dennis Virtuoso (D-Niagara Falls) announced his retirement, Niagara County Democrats have endorsed a potential successor.
Earlier in the day Thursday, Falls City Councilman William Kennedy II (D) announced he would be a candidate to replace Virtuoso for the Niagara County Legislature’s Sixth District seat. By Thursday night, the Niagara County Democratic Committee had met and voted to endorse Kennedy’s run.
“I am excited at the opportunity of serving the community in a different capacity, this time in the county legislature.” Kennedy said. “Although the position of legislator carries many different duties from what I currently do as a council member, constituent services is always of the upmost importance and that will not change as a county legislator. Helping and serving our residents, especially during these difficult times, is very important to me.”
Kennedy said he came to the decision to run for a seat in the legislature after Virtuoso, a 15-term legislator, announced Wednesday that he was retiring for health reasons. The current legislature minority leader said a campaign would be too taxing for him.
At the end of his term in December, Virtuoso will become one of only two legislators to ever serve for 30 years as a county lawmaker. The other was Lewiston Republican Lee Simonson.
Kennedy is wrapping up his first term on the Falls City Council, winning a seat in his first run for public office in November 2017. He told the Gazette he had planned to seek a second council term.
“I was literally about to announce (a) re-election bid, but then this news happened,” he said. Kennedy said he hopes to continue to fight for Falls residents on the county level.
“Dennis was one of the fiercest fighters for the people of Niagara Falls for the past 30 years. I hope to be able to represent the Sixth District in the same manner Dennis did.”, Kennedy said. “It’s important, especially with the pandemic still going strong that we have someone to continue fighting for our city in county government. We need to make the county understand Niagara Falls can and should be the center of economic revitalization in the whole area. Growing our way out of the financial difficulties we face is the key and Niagara County should play a large role in making that happen.”
With nominating petitions for the 2021 primary election set to begin circulating in the coming weeks, County Democratic party leaders said they decided to move quickly to endorse Kennedy. He was endorsed by the full county committee Thursday evening.
“First I want to wish Minority Leader Dennis Virtuoso the best as he moves on to retirement”, County Democratic Chairman John Jacoby said after the committee vote. “I know he’s dealing with a lot right now and he is in our prayers. Although the decision by Dennis to step away this year came as a surprise, we wanted to have the right choice in place to replace him and we feel we have that in Bill.”
Jacoby said Kennedy will have “big shoes to fill.”
“But he’s worked very hard for the residents of Niagara Falls the past few years on the council, and he has the right ideas for what is needed out of county government for the people of Niagara Falls,” Jacoby said. “He’s going to do good things for us in Lockport.”