Political operatives associated with Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins’ mainline Democratic caucus are contemplating potential candidates to challenge Senator Robert Ortt, of North Tonawanda. The 62nd district stretches from Niagara Falls to Rochester.
The most prominent names being floated are Mayor Paul Dyster and former Niagara Falls Councilwoman Kristin Grandinetti. Both have long tenured records in city politics, and proudly tout their progressive brand. Dyster’s erudite style has earned him three citywide elections after serving on the Council since his alignment with former Mayor Irene Elia.
Ortt was elected following the retirement of George Maziarz following an FBI probe into his office. Ortt is Maziarz’s political protege and his political career has benefited mightily from the association. Maziarz had closely managed Ortt’s election efforts behind the scenes, for City Treasurer, Mayor, and then Senate.
Maziarz is currently standing trial in Albany County for campaign finance violations. Earlier this year, Ortt and his wife had become subjects of the investigation. It was alleged that Megan Ortt was paid $5,000 a year for an allegedly no-show campaign position. That indictment was later dismissed without explanation.
In many ways, Senator Robert Ortt would be a very difficult incumbent to challenge. He is young, attractive, and a relatively fresh face for most voters in his district. He previously served as Mayor of North Tonawanda, and in the United States Army.
But the Democrats are eager to retake the Senate chamber, and are fundraising aggressively to do it. The 62nd district was redrawn to include Niagara Falls in the last redistricting, which mitigated its Republican enrollment advantage.
Town of Pendleton Supervisor Joel Maerten, who in the past has received the support of the Republican, Conservative, Green, Working Families, and Women’s Equality parties, is also rumored to be interested in the Democratic nomination.