Restaino secures Democratic line in mayor's race

File photoNiagara Falls attorney Robert Restaino, right, increased his lead in the Democratic Party primary for mayor over Seth Piccirillo following a count of absentee and affidavit ballots on Friday, meaning Restaino will appear on the Democratic Party ballot line during the general election this fall. 

LOCKPORT -- A tally of absentee and affidavit ballots on Friday turned in favor of Robert Restaino, widening his lead in the Democratic primary for Niagara Falls mayor and assuring him placement on the ballot as the party's candidate of choice this fall. 

His primary challenger, current Niagara Falls Community Development Director Seth Piccirillo, noted, in the wake of Friday's ballot count, that he is still technically on the ballot on at least one and potentially two minor party lines. 

"So, with the absentee count, it's clear we did not win the Democratic line," Piccirillo said, noting that he remains the endorsed Working Families Party and is leading the vote count in the Green Party primary race.

"We're on the (November general election) ballot. We're excited to be on the ballot," Piccirillo added. "We're going to take a couple of weeks and decide what our next steps are for the general election. We're not in a hurry to make a decision."

Niagara County Elections Commissioner Lora Allen said late Friday afternoon that the tabulation of absentee and affidavit ballots at the board of elections headquarters in Lockport showed that Restaino had received 108 of those votes, while Piccirillo tallied 60 votes.

That raised Restaino's lead in the race from the 79-vote count he had after balloting concluded Tuesday night to 127 votes. Allen said only  "a handful of challenged ballots" remained to be counted.

"It's not enough to change the outcome," she said. 

Restaino said he was pleased with his widening lead after the absentee ballot count.

"We're happy that our message was well received by the voters," he said. 

While Restaino claimed victory on Tuesday night, Piccirillo had refused to concede, saying, "We’re going to make sure every vote gets counted."

On Primary Day, Restaino said he didn't "know what to say" about the closeness of the race. He did, however, say that he expected to reach out to Piccirillo to seek unity in the party for the race against Republican mayoral candidate Glenn Choolokian.

Restaino said Friday that some Democratic party officials had "reached out" to him to discuss the issue of party unity heading into the general election.

"I'm hoping there's a conversation (with Piccirillo)," Restaino said. 

But Piccirillo said the closeness of the primary results could keep him in the race.

"We lost by a little over 100 votes," he said. "There is no mandate that comes out of this (primary) election."

The absentee ballot count brought the total number of votes in the mayoral primary race to 3,451. That represents just over 23 percent of the 14,764 registered Democratic Party voters in The Falls. 

Allen noted that the turnout in primary elections is traditionally lower than in general elections.

The board of elections is not expected to formally certify the mayoral primary until a canvass of all the primary races, countywide, has been completed. 

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