By Mike Hudson, The Niagara Falls Reporter
Niagara County Democratic Chairman Nick Forster told the Niagara Falls Reporter that, while he takes no pleasure from the downfall of State Sen. George Maziarz, he believes the post-Maziarz era presents a golden opportunity for him and his party.
“This is a catastrophic blow to the Republicans here,” Forster said. “We’re finally going to have an even playing field, and things are going to change now.”
Forster said Maziarz’s ability to raise large amounts of money and use it to fund campaigns on the Conservative and Independence lines have hamstrung efforts by Democrats to hold elected office in the county. This has been particularly true in the county Legislature, where just four of 15 legislators are Democrats.
“There’s been talk about this for a long time now, and what we’re looking at is the Republican machine being broken here,” he said.
Over the weekend, Maziarz announced he would not seek re-election in November. The shocking news came in the wake of resignations by Marcus Hall and Alisa Colatarci, his two top aides.
Sources tell the Reporter that records had been subpoenaed from Maziarz’s senate office as part of a federal investigation into campaign finance spending on the part of Maziarz.
Both have lawyered up, with Hall being represented by top criminal defense attorney Rod Personius and Colatarci using former U.S. Attorney Daniel French out of Syracuse.
While Maziarz said the resignations and his decision not to run have nothing to do with the federal investigation, Forster said he believes indictments are likely in the case, sooner rather than later.
“The truth always comes out,” Forster said. “You can’t hide from the truth.”
In May, an article in City and State magazine reported that the now-defunct Moreland Commission collected documents showing Maziarz spent $140,000 in campaign funds between 2008 and 2013 without itemizing what the money was spent on.
Forster said the indictment of Town of Niagara Supervisor Steve Richards, the defeat of Lewiston Supervisor Steve Reiter and the resignation of Lockport Mayor Michael Tucker were merely a prelude to the Maziarz affair.
“All of those guys were George’s people,” he said. “It was just a matter of time.”
Maziarz told the Reporter he’s been contemplating retirement – at his family’s urging – and the $90,000 a year pension that comes with it — for some time now.
“I’m 61. I could have retired, taken a pension at 55,” he said. You’ve got to leave office sometime. I’m proud of the work I’ve done in public service.”
Forster said that Niagara County School Board member Johnny Destino, who mounted a Republican primary campaign against Maziarz two years ago, will be the Democratic choice to fill the seat.
“Johnny’s our guy,” he said. “It’s the right time and it’s the right race.”