State Assembly districts are not typically high profile or high spending contests since the chamber is solidly controlled by the Democrats’ majority. That majority has gerrymandered a structural advantage for Democrats while denying the Republican members the same level of staff funding or district pork. That leaves Republican Assembly seats marginally more vulnerable than Democratic seats. In Western New York local operatives have their eyes on two seats in particular.
Angela Wozniak (R-Cheektowaga), 143rd district
At age 29, the incumbent Assemblywoman is alleged to have used her staffer as a sex toy. The Republican operative Elias Farah has alleged that the Assemblywoman fired him shortly after he began refusing to satisfy her (apparently insatiable) sexual demands. An ethics investigation is pending and Wozniak denies the accusations. Her predecessor was ousted from office on allegations that he sexually harassed more than a dozen women on his staff.
The whole situation has a throng of Democrats actively considering the race, making for a potentially crowded primary. Rumors have included Cheektowaga Police Chief David Zack; Cheektowaga Town Clerk Alice Magierski; Cheektowaga Councilman James Rogowski; and Christine Adamczyk. In a crowded field, the primary is anyone’s game.
It’s unclear what the outcome of the ethics investigation will be, but — with Democrats in charge — we can be sure the timing will not be helpful to Wozniak. Some quietly suggest that Ted Morton could be a backup candidate, but he is likely more valuable to the Republicans on the county legislature where they retain a one-seat majority.
John Ceretto (D-Lewiston), 145th district
Earlier this year the Assemblyman surprised both parties when he announced that he would leave the Republican Party to join the Democratic caucus. Critics say the move was a transparent effort to milk the advantages of incumbency. As a Democrat, Ceretto has a larger staff and more influence with the Speaker. The whole episode has left a sour impression among voters of both parties: the Republicans who feel betrayed and the Democrats who feel tricked.
Rus Thompson, the conservative organizer and WBEN radio personality, is a Democrat who is rumored to be considering the race. Those close to him dismiss the rumors, but operatives generally agree he would be positioned strongly in the race — particularly in a head to head matchup with Ceretto.
Many who follow Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster, fresh off narrow primary and general election victories, say he would be a far more effective legislator than he has been an executive.