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By Mike Hudson

We've been writing for years now about what a sad-sack loser county Democratic Chairman Dan Rivera is, and the results of the past two general elections have done nothing to disabuse us of that notion.

Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster barely hanging on by a thread despite a 6-to-1 Democratic registration advantage and the fact that the campaigns of his challengers -- John Accardo and Johnny Destino -- veered between wildly inept and just plain lazy; Republican Vince Sandonato becoming the first Republican in 40 years to represent Democrat Sean O'Connor's old county Legislature seat; the crushing defeat suffered by Francine Del Monte at the hands of John Ceretto following a decade in Albany; and Mark Grisanti's stunning win over Antoine Thompson in the state Senate race, which flew in the face of some of the Falls' most monied and politically inept insiders, constitute a shameful record indeed.

Today, in the whole of Niagara County, just nine elected officials belong to the Democratic Party, and two of those -- Niagara Falls Councilmen Bob Anderson and Glenn Choolokian -- ran in opposition to lackluster candidates run by Rivera's Democrats and were endorsed by the Republicans.

The Republicans, of course, are led by state Sen. George Maziarz, a man whose political astuteness is that of a genius compared to Rivera and other cretins who opposed Mark Grisanti in the 2010 election.

Maziarz has a long memory, never forgets a friend or a grudge, and lives, eats and breathes Niagara County politics like no one since the late great Earl W. Brydges 50 years ago. Beside Maziarz, Rivera and other alleged Niagara County kingmakers seem more like the simpletons they are than they might otherwise.

Clearly, Rivera must go, but who will replace him? In this winter of our discontent three names have emerged, those of former chairman Nick Forster, former county coroner Jimmy Joyce, and unsuccessful state Assembly candidate and longtime political consultant Gary Parenti.

The danger here, obviously, is that the three challengers will split the anti-Rivera vote among Democratic Committee people and allow the buffoon to be re-elected, which would be par for the course for the Democrats.

And the risk for backers of any candidate, including Rivera, is that a wrong choice could result in political retribution of the sort that could be bad for business.

"I've spoken to a couple of the candidates and will speak to anyone who comes into the office," said Laborers Local 91 Business Agent Dick Paladino. "But as far as committing to or endorsing anyone, I haven't done that and the local hasn't done that."

Paladino bucked the Democratic Party by endorsing Anderson and Choolokian in the recent election, and is seen as being among the savviest political minds in Niagara Falls.

"It's never a question to me whether a candidate for any office is a Democrat or Republican, Italian or Irish or Polish, black or white or brown," he said. "I have one concern and one concern only, and that is who will be the best choice for the hardworking men and women of this union."

Can the Democratic Party regain its former relevance in a city and county that has seemingly consigned it to the dustbin of history?

City Council Chairman and future mayoral candidate Sam Fruscione seems to think so, and he's a Parenti man from way back.

That puts him at odds with freshman county Legislator Jason Zona, who has reportedly offered his support to Forster.

Joyce's support is a bit harder to pin down. While he has long coveted the job, he has in the past been unable to put together the sort of broad coalition needed to secure the position. Still, his support for one of the other candidates could be a crucial factor in the outcome of the race.

City Councilman Bob Anderson told the Niagara Falls Reporter he would support anyone except Rivera. In the recent election, the wildly popular councilman was not officially endorsed by the Democrats, but was the top vote-getter on both the Democratic and Republican lines, as well as the minor party lines on which he ran.

The city Democratic Committee, under the "leadership" of an unemployed homeless man named David Houghton, allowed disgraced former state assemblywoman Francine Del Monte to chair the meeting at which Anderson was turned down for endorsement.

Why Del Monte -- a Lewiston resident -- was permitted to run a meeting of city Democrats is anyone's guess, but the mean-spirited harpy used her own personal prejudice to get in the way of sound political judgment. Anderson is a black man.

Perhaps nothing better illustrates the mindless stupidity of the current Democratic leadership than the snub of Anderson, who has generally been the city's top vote-getter in every election since he first took office in 2003.

"I go back 20 years and more with Jimmy (Joyce) and Gary (Parenti)," Anderson said. "For the current regime to remain in place in the face of what they did to the party in this past election is completely unacceptable."

Anderson, forever the master of wry understatement, said a mouthful. But there's more.

Remember the time Rivera lost his job as an insurance investigator with Liberty Mutual because he used his position to unearth and then publicize expunged court records belonging to Gary Parenti, who was then involved in a bitter primary election battle against Del Monte?

Remember the famous nose-twisting incident, in which Rivera verbally abused and then laid hands on Diane Roberts, then vice chair of the Lewiston Democratic Committee?

She resigned her position in a letter that became public, and the flap was such that former state Senate minority leader Malcolm Smith boycotted a fundraising event he'd traveled to Niagara Falls to attend in protest of Rivera's mere presence.

The clownish incompetence of Dan Rivera has been enough that even Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster is reportedly getting ready to back one of the challengers. Ironically, Dyster is the sole elected official to remain in office after helping Rivera destroy the Democratic Party from within in a way the Republicans could never have hoped to.

Maziarz laughed when he heard of Rivera's predicament.

"I hope he stays in there for life," Maziarz said. "Between him and that clown they keep electing as mayor of Niagara Falls, it's doubtful another Democrat will win an election for years to come."

Since none of the oft-mentioned contenders to end Rivera's reign of error have publicly announced their candidacies, only a fool would give a formal endorsement to anyone at this point.

For now, we'll take the same position Dick Paladino and Bob Anderson have adopted.

Anyone but Rivera.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com Jan. 24 2012