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July 29 - Aug 06, 2014

Forster likes Dems’ Chances in November

By Mike Hudson

July 29, 2014

The game has changed: Nick Forster (l) and Johnny Destino (r) are poised to take advantage of the stupendous, sudden decline of Republicans in Niagara County. State Compt. Tom DiNapoli (center); Below: Forster with Gov. Cuomo.


Bad news for the Republicans is good news for the Democrats and the recent spate of investigations, indictments and sudden resignations of and by Republican officials in Niagara County (See related story page 2) has opened up a whole new range of possibilities for Nick Forster, the county Democratic chairman.

Forster previously served as chairman in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when Republicans and Democrats had roughly even numbers of elected officials in office. His departure marked the beginning of a period of decline for the party here, to the point where just four of the 15 members of the Niagara County Legislature are Democrats despite a slight edge in registered voters countywide.

That advantage, and the fact that most local municipal governments outside of Niagara Falls have been controlled by Republicans in recent years, has been attributed to the strategic brilliance of State Sen. George Maziarz, who announced two weeks ago he would not seek re-election as federal investigators look at $140,000 in un-itemized campaign expenses over the last several years.

After stepping down as chairman, Forster stayed out of public life for nearly a decade, until 2012, when he again ran for chairman and won.

His sometimes abrasive style, and reputation for winning elections, clearly has some Republicans worried.

Earlier this year he was the target of a robo call campaign against him, in which a 45-second recorded message accused him of not paying child support and dodging taxes. The anonymous message, undoubtedly paid for by county Republicans, called on listeners to contact Forster and demand his resignation.

A Niagara Falls Reporter investigation into the allegations showed conclusively that they were untrue. Still, Forster was understandably outraged.

Now, with the resignations of Republican officials becoming an almost weekly occurrence in Niagara County, and the likelihood of the trend continuing being high, Forster may have the chance for some payback.

Dennis Brochey, a Democrat, beat former Town Councilman Ernie Palmer for Lewiston supervisor after Steve Reiter was defeated by Palmer in a rare Republican primary after Reiter was tarnished by allegations that he stole town gasoline. The subsequent resignations of Palmer and fellow Republican Michael Marra open the possibility of a Democratic majority on the council during the 2105 election cycle.

Forster is also supporting Lewiston Town Clerk Donna Garfinkel in her election against Regina Cecconi and Keith Ahlas in a bid to replace William Conrad on the town board.
Lockport’s Republican Mayor, Anne McCaffrey, was appointed to the office following Michael Tucker’s sudden resignation, and will face voters for the first time in 2015.

In the Town of Niagara, where Town Clerk Sylvia Virtuoso is filling in for former Supervisor Steve Richards following his indictment and plea bargain on public corruption charges, an election will be held later this year for a new supervisor whose term will begin Jan. 1, 2015.
Virtuoso said she has no interest in running, presenting another opportunity for Forster and the Democrats to gain ground. Lee Wallace is the Democratic candidate and is the odds-on favorite to win.

The race between Republican-turned-Democrat Johnny Destino against North Tonawanda’s Republican Mayor Rob Ortt to fill Maziarz’s 62nd District seat has been deemed too close to call at this point and may hinge on whether or not Maziarz is indicted before Election Day.

Curiously, in what was either a marvelous example of dumb luck or sheer genius, Forster encouraged Destino to run against the popular Maziarz instead of what conventional wisdom would suggest was a more winnable prize- the seat of Assemblyman John Ceretto (R-Lewiston) who is seated in a district with a sharp Democratic plurality.

Maziarz was considered untouchable until just two weeks ago, when he announced he would not seek re-election, placing Destino in a perfect position to capture the seat for the Democrats and by so doing - arguably help Democrats take control of the state senate.

(Next Week: Nick Forster sat down with the Niagara Falls Reporter for a exclusive and wide-ranging interview on the Niagara County Democrats’ prospects for the future here. Some of his comments are brazen, some sharp, some insightful. Some will surprise, as he unveils his strategy to get Destino elected this year, and next year take control of the County Legislature.)







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