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AUGUST 25 - SEP 01, 2015

Ceretto: Prodigal Son or Judas Iscariot?

By Deborah Eddel

August 25, 2015

Democrat turned Republican turned Democrat John Ceretto campaigns for right-leaning Republican Carl Paladino against Andrew Cuomo for governor.
A man for all seasons/parties/ideologies: John Ceretto warmly embraces left-leaning Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo


“The Prodigal Son has returned home!”

That’s how one local Democratic official described the hoopla, last week, over the return of Assemblyman John Ceretto, the Democrat-turned-Republican, to the Democratic Party.

That same Democrat later pulled me aside and cautioned: “Of course, you know the Prodigal Son in the Bible story was an idiot who squandered everything he’d been given.”

While on the surface, county Democrats are beaming about Ceretto’s return—a move that was foreshadowed last fall, when local Democrat leaders tell us, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo interceded on Ceretto’s behalf and demanded they give him a free ride in the fall elections—many are privately concerned about the baggage Ceretto brings with him after nearly a decade as a Republican.

Much of that time saw Ceretto as a devoted loyalist to State Senator George D. Maziarz, the longtime shadow leader of the county Republican organization, after all.

Spending that much time in the enemy camp, you’re bound to make a few enemies who won’t be so quick to forgive.

And so it is with Ceretto.

One top Republican told us, on condition his name be withheld, that he had encountered former Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte—the figurative dragon Ceretto slayed to punch his ticket to Albany—at Lewiston’s Artpark venue last week. (We, honestly, were more fascinated by the mental image of a Confederate-flag-waving DelMonte rocking out to Lynyrd Skynyrd—but we digress.)

“Francine was spitting nails,” the Republican wag told us. “She is [expletive] at [Niagara County Democratic Party Chairman] Nick Forster. She said she considers this a betrayal.”

Our Republican source went on to note that DelMonte had also told him she considered Ceretto too “dumb” for her party—before she was gently reminded that the dumb Ceretto had beaten her rather soundly in a three-way race.

Were that DelMonte was the only Democrat not boarding the Ceretto Welcome Wagon.

However, a key backer of former City Judge Robert Restaino, who supported and helped organize the Democrat’s 2012 Assembly run against Ceretto, told us the Restaino camp is similar displeased.

“Bobby put himself out there, and the party didn’t capitalize on the opportunity, and they came up short,” our source said. “Now, Ceretto is a Democrat, and he has Democratic blood on his hands.”

Of course, that’s not how Forster tells it.

“This is a win for John, the Democratic Party, but most of all, for the people of Niagara County and Grand Island in the 145th assembly district,” Forster told us, before inviting other Republicans to join the Party of Jackson and Kennedy.

“I say welcome home to John and to any others looking for a party that will represent the interests of working people,” Forster said. “The Democratic Party is the party of inclusion, not exclusion. It's a big tent where many views and opinions are welcome.”

Local Republicans were less charitable.

Nick Langworthy, the chairman of the Erie County GOP organization, and an up-and-coming figure in the state Republican Party, had this to say:

“John Ceretto was always an unremarkable, simple legislator, but now he gets to be a tool of the corrupt New York City Assembly majority. “His defection comes as no surprise and is of no consequence.”

A press release from the bombastic Langworthy was even more direct: “Many area Republicans consider this a welcome change.”

For Ceretto, though, who once linked arms with the far-right-wing Carl Paladino, the Republicans in the rearview mirror may start to look like a much safer bet than a party filled with sworn enemies.





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