Bob Restaino is the endorsed Democrat running for Mayor of Niagara Falls. He won a heated primary battle that pitted him against Paul Dyster‘s Community Development Director Seth Piccirillo, who often found himself at the center of the administration’s recent development scandals.
Even now, the City’s unrelenting patronage machine is still at it — and in a particularly brazen manner — given the City’s structural operating deficit of $15 million to $20 million. The entire city budget is about $90 million.
Glenn Choolokian, a longtime employee at the Niagara Falls Water Board who ran as a Democrat four years ago has flopped and is now running for Mayor on the Republican line — with the backing of Local 91 labor union; however, he does not have the backing of his own AFL-CIO, which has endorsed Restaino.
Choolokian is not the crusading budget hawk that one typically expects of a Republican, and hasn’t been calling for cuts. In fact, he’s insisted that there’s nowhere left to cut.
Choolokian has many political pundits scratching their heads with the release of four videos outlining his agenda. He calls for new road repair equipment that claims to more efficiently fix potholes, more aggressively demolishing abandoned structures and doing so in-house, adding more police officers to the payroll, and an economic development strategy that focuses more on manufacturing than tourism.
All of this, which expands his union base at City Hall without explaining how he is going to plug the deficit, much less pay for the new hires and the equipment he will need to do the jobs he proposes.
While some proposals may sound palatable, his critics say that each initiative would require hiring dozens of new city employees that the city just cannot afford. They argue tax increases would be necessary to close the current $15 – $20 million budget gap; millions more would be required to fund Choolokian’s proposals, which would likely bankrupt the City.
Restaino is a lifelong Democrat who has substantial support among voters from across the political spectrum — garnering the endorsements of the Democratic, Independence, Conservative, Libertarian, and Green Party lines. He’s also known to appeal to many Republican voters and businessmen. He won the Democratic Party primary on a pro-business platform and stressed his willingness to work with all members of the business community to make projects happen.
He promises a renewed focus on development, regional collaboration, a more transparent government, and takes a fiscally conservative tone.
Niagara Falls has a significant Democratic Party enrollment advantage, and in most elections, the Republican candidate would not be viable, even with the best of credentials. Buffalo-based political operative Don Turchiarelli — the Steve Bannon of local politics — recruited Jeffery Elder to run on an independent nominating line with the aim of helping Choolokian’s campaign. Elder is a retired airplane mechanic with the United States Airforce and is African American.
Local 91 has worked with Turchiarelli in the past on Choolokian campaigns and is providing backing and political support for both Choolokian and Elder, presumably hoping that Elder splits the African American vote, thereby benefiting Choolokian, who has negligible support in the Fourth District.
Political prognosticators don’t believe that Choolokian can win in a one-on-one contest.
Adding to the mix is local independent filmmaker S.E. Ken Cosentino, who gained political notoriety as Councilman Bill Kennedy‘s campaign manager. The two men are partners in the film business. He announced last week that he is waging a write-in campaign, though he has acknowledged his effort is unlikely to succeed. Most observers postulate that his write-in campaign will go nowhere, given his late timing and lack of financial support.
Cosentino has close ties to Democratic Chairman Jason Zona, and observers predict that he may go to work for the Chairman following the election. Others speculate that Constantino is angling to land a filmmaking position — perhaps with the Niagara County Wine Trail and with funding from Empire State Development.