Molinaro to Take on Updegrove In Marquee Legislative Race
By Mike Hudson
Lockport teacher Anthony Molinaro, 40, a Democrat, announced this week he will seek the Niagara County 12th District Legislature seat currently held by GOP Majority Leader Richard Updegrove.
Molinaro’s family owns Molinaro’s Ristorante and the Holy Cannoli in Lockport, and he has been a longtime sponsor of that city’s Italian Festival that has raised more than $80,000 for breast cancer research. The festival was begun in 2000 after Molinaro’s mother Antoinette’s successful battle against the disease.
He was a political neophyte last May when he ran for a seat on Lockport’s Board of Education. When the votes were counted, Molinaro outpolled all other candidates with 2,452 votes.
"I am surprised, this is my first time getting involved with this,” he said at the time. “But it's something I believe in."
Molinaro earned a bachelor's degree in engineering and a master’s degree in education from Buffalo State College. He spent 11 years with GM/ Delphi as a member of the UAW Local 686, before embarking on a career in education. He currently works as a vocational (building trades) instructor at ONBOCES - NCTEC in Sanborn.
He is a lifelong resident of Lockport and is married to Kristen, a Spanish teacher at KenTon Middle school. The couple has three sons and they are expecting a fourth child, another boy, later this year.
Molinaro is a first generation American. His mother, Antoinette, and his father, Michael, came from the Calabria region of southern Italy.
"My parent's met here in Lowertown and both of their families came to this country with the same common interest… to work hard for their families and live the American dream,” he said.
Niagara County Democratic Chairman Nick Forster said Molinaro is exactly the kind of candidate he’s been looking for in his attempt to displace what he calls the “Dirty Dozen” Republican legislators who currently make up the 12-3 majority.
“Anthony Molinaro was actively recruited,” Forster said. “He’s a successful businessman, and he’s done very well on the school board. The legislature is a logical step up for him.”
Forster said he believes five of the seats currently held by the GOP can be taken in the November election, which would give the Democrats a majority for the first time in eight years.
“Dick Updegrove has a record of raising taxes and failing to deliver for the people of Niagara County,” Forster said. “We think it’s time to try someone else.
As might be expected, Niagara County Republican Chairman Michael Norris disagrees.
“Dick Updegrove’s done a fantastic job as leader, and he’s going to get the full benefit of all the resources available to us in his re-election bid,” Norris said.
Updegrove, now in his 10th year in the legislature, made headlines recently when he questioned a state mandated requirement that $500,000 in annual charitable contributions paid by Yahoo, as part of its in lieu of taxes agreement, go to the Community Foundation of Greater Buffalo (and not Niagara County), which is based in Erie County.
“While I certainly appreciate the fact that Buffalo is facing its share of challenges, the reality is that we need to look at a fair and equitable disbursement of those funds so that the people of Niagara County may also benefit,” said Updegrove. “The Foundation for Buffalo continues to do admirable work for the community. I’m simply asking for a review of the process in order to ensure that the people of Niagara County receive our fair share.”
Despite his advantage as an incumbent, and the superior war chest held by the GOP for county legislative races, Updegrove has never before faced an opponent as well known and well funded as Molinaro.
Molinaro told the Reporter that he had ample reason to run for office, starting with the small number of Democrats in the legislature.
"The super majority is running wild. That's not America. That should not be Niagara County. We don’t have a balanced mix of Republicans and Democrats right now. You get fair play when you get fair representation," Molinaro said. "Taxes are spinning out of control, back-door dealings, deals that help the party, not the people. People are moving out. More than half of the county cannot afford the high taxes. I plan to bring a good honest approach to the people and the politics of Niagara County. Let’s get this right and leave out the special interests."
Molinaro named the issues that are most important to him. They are common core family values, lowering the Niagara County tax burden, supporting local union memberships, having better political transparency, regionalization through shared services and attrition, and better senior healthcare services.
This race will certainly be a marquee matchup in November (Democrats and Republicans are about evenly divided) and the Reporter plans to give the contest full coverage.
|Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr.||www.niagarafallsreporter.com||