Goodbye John Ceretto

John Ceretto explained his decision to switch political affiliations: "I first got involved in public service to help our neighbors and have always put people ahead of politics, and that won’t change," he said in the statement.

John Ceretto explained his decision to switch political affiliations: “I first got involved in public service to help our neighbors and have always put people ahead of politics, and that won’t change,” he said in the statement.

Lame Duck NYS Assemblyman John D. Ceretto made an unfortunate mistake last year.

He listened to Gov. Andrew Cuomo who persuaded him to switch from the Republican party to the Democrats and now he’s out of a job.

The Democrat Ceretto was defeated this week by a Republican who almost certainly would not have run against him had Ceretto remained Republican.

But former City Court Judge Angelo Morinello handily beat Ceretto in one of the most expensive Assembly races upstate New York ever saw.

Ceretto’s job, which he just lost, was to be a member of the New York State Assembly as the representative for the City of Niagara Falls and towns of Lewiston, Wheatfield, Niagara and Cambria in Niagara County, plus Grand Island in Erie County.

Ceretto represented the people of these municipalities for most of six years, serving with a remarkable lack of distinction.

It would be hard to say precisely anything Ceretto ever did except drive back and forth to Albany, and vote “me too” for everything Republicans wanted when he was a Republican. And when he turned Democrat he was just as accommodating. They called him on both sides of the aisle, “the ‘me too’ guy.”

Angelo Morinello

Angelo Morinello

Morinello, who beat him, is a former Niagara Falls city court judge who retired last year after 15 years on the bench because he reached mandatory retirement age for a judge – 70.

So he surprised everyone when he announced he was going to take on Ceretto. For, after all, there are few contested races in the Assembly, where Democrats control 105-42 over Republicans. Incumbent assembly members rarely lose elections.

So sure, probably Ceretto would not have lost if he remained a Republican. But maybe in the end he can’t be blamed.

Ceretto first came to the Assembly when he won a three-way race against two Democrats, John Accardo and the incumbent Francine Del Monte in 2010.

Had Del Monte, who lost the Democratic primary to Accardo, not stayed in the race on a minor party line, siphoning just enough votes away from the otherwise sure thing Accardo, Republican Ceretto would never have squeaked in. But he did.

And after two uneventful years it was time to run again.

In 2012, Republican Ceretto had to run against popular local Democrat and lawyer, Robert Restaino.

Ceretto and Restaino both made a pledge that they would not go negative and dirty. One man kept his word till the end of the campaign. One man kept his word until the crucial week before the election.

That’s when John Ceretto went dirty and mean.

And Ceretto squeaked by Restaino, who was somewhat chagrined at the rascal’s bad faith. Ceretto might not have squeaked in had he not gone negative during the last days of the campaign when it was too late for his opponent to respond.

But he did. And after two uneventful years it was time to run again. And now it is 2014, and John wants to run again.  But after two close shaves – in a district of about 80,000 registered voters, where 35,520 are Democrats and 23,764 Republicans and the rest have either no party or a minor party, the edge clearly goes to the Democrat. Unless they blow it.

So Ceretto made a deal. He had started off his political career as a Democrat back when he was in Lewiston town politics.  Then when it was advantageous to switch to Republican he did so promptly. What’s a party to him?

And in 2014, Ceretto made a nice clean sweet secret deal — with the Democrats. Which was in effect: You don’t need to run anyone against me – because I’m your boy.

Now Ceretto is a nice guy. He likes to be friendly with all. He didn’t want to run too hard and maybe lose to a Democrat – who knows maybe even Francine DelMonte or Bobby Restaino – or someone. Anyone. He might not squeak by. So he made a deal.

He told the Democrats he would run as a Republican and after he won – if the Democrats would not field a candidate against him –  he would switch over to the Democrats.

Now of course we won’t tell the Republicans our little plan, Ceretto told his new Democrat best friends. And in this he was shrewd. If the Republicans knew he was going to switch parties, they would have run someone against him and fast too.

Then State Senator, George Maziarz – who had mentored Ceretto and aided him in his campaigns in the beginning – would have found someone to whoop John’s backside hard and fast.

So they had to keep it secret and John Ceretto – acting friendly to all the Republicans – ran again as a Republican – bald faced telling his constituents that he was their Republican man and so the Republicans stayed out of the race since they thought he was with them.

And the Democrats stayed out of the race for they knew he would be their man – just after they tricked the Republicans and the voters. And so in 2014 the Republican Ceretto (who would soon be the Democrat Ceretto) did not have to squeak by since he had no opponent in a district with more Democrats than Republicans.

The Niagara Falls Reporter kept asking – how can this be that the Democrats are not fielding a candidate in a district where they have an edge?

Of course the Democrats lied. That’s what they do. They said Gov. Cuomo has taken a shining to the little guy and he told us don’t run a candidate against John. But they didn’t tell the rest of the story. That old John was going over to them.

So in 2014 Ceretto had no competition. His scheme and the schemers who cut the deal with him deprived the people of his district a chance to choose a person to represent them. Ceretto was the only name on the ballot for the 145 Assembly District.

And John the opportunist, won reelection. He didn’t break a sweat.

And John the opportunist, he was told he would get a big boost from turning to Democrat in the Assembly.

That most corrupt stench hole of filth – the New York State Assembly  – had a deal for John Ceretto.

The Democrats controlled the Assembly and since they are in control they would give John a hell of a lot more (taxpayer) money- pork barrel money – then he would get as a Republican.

As a Republican maybe he got $100,000 to spread around in his district per year.

And yes, you can buy some votes, earn some gratitude, with $100,000. But since Democrats own the Assembly they would see to it he got not $100,000 but $1.6 million.

You know how many votes you can buy with that?

With that kind of advantage plus being the incumbent- and all the money to spread, there was no chance that anybody would every challenge old Johnny boy ever again.

And why, you might ask, would the Democrats even care to have such a man as that anyway?  It’s simple.

In Niagara County the Democrats have very few elected offices. But with elected office comes jobs – patronage – jobs you give out to people who will help you get elected. And with him being a Democrat now – John would have that $1.6 million to dole out – to Democrats and friends of Democrats. This was a plum.

And true to his word, John Ceretto, the Democrat-turned– Republican, became John Ceretto, the Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-Democrat.

And Ceretto became a tool of the Democrat controlled Assembly.

And true to their word, those Democrats took him as bosom friend and gave Ceretto $1.6 million in “member item funds” to spend in his district on those he wanted to help. It was all up to him – and his Democratic friends in the party.

What a job. Little or nothing to do – but go to Albany now and then  – expenses paid of course – and vote as the party bosses tell you – and then come back to your district with nothing to do but give out money. It’s like your Santa Claus.

And all was good and John he should have lived happily ever after switching from Republican to Democratic.

And after two more years, it was time to run again. But this time Ceretto did distinguish himself- not in the assembly but in salting the mines — handing out his $1.6 million and living the high life in Albany and back home.

And confidently expecting the Republicans wouldn’t bother – he being so popular in his district and his Democratic party edge.

But Morinello had to go and spoil it for him.

Life is not fair.   Morinello was a judge. He had reputation, name recognition. He had money. Energy. Intelligence.

And after John Ceretto worked so hard and set this all up, he hardly got a chance to enjoy when this cat comes out and says he’s running against him.

I suppose Ceretto would have had a better chance had he not hired Rob Nichols and if one his staffers didn’t get mad and give a bunch of emails to The Buffalo News.

You’ve probably read the stories.  In short Robert E. Nichols, Ceretto’s political aide, worked hard with John to make sure none of the $1.6 million in tax dollars Ceretto got each year was wasted on agencies or not for profits or any kind of project that wasn’t going to either get John votes, get John’s name in the paper, do a favor which would one day be returned or, by George, get something for John.

Now of course this was not new behavior for John or any other Assembly member of state senator. They operate more or less in the Ceretto way. The only thing is – normally they don’t put their schemes in emails.

But the emails were released.

People laughed when they thought Ceretto and Nichols didn’t want to give money to Wheatfield because Town Supervisor Robert B. Cliffe allegedly gave Nichols and Ceretto the cold shoulder at some public picnic.

That wasn’t it at all.

Ceretto didn’t care about a cold shoulder. The fact is that Cliffe and the whole town board are Republicans. And there was no way John Ceretto was going to get any votes there. In fact, making them look good might hurt him. You don’t give money to the enemy.

And Nichols didn’t want Ceretto should overdo it with grants to urban projects in the City of Niagara Falls, because town voters might object. Suburban voters in the towns might really object.

With $1.6 million per year there was plenty to go around to buy all the votes and gratitude needed for a district this size – which is the sole purpose for the member item money anyway.

But now Ceretto had a real challenge in Morinello.

And when the emails got out, he sure did look stupid.

When Ceretto said he allocated his member item dollars to worthy projects where it does the most good, the voters laughed.

They understood. A rascal is given $1.6 million. He has to run every two years. He gives it out where it does the most good – for him.

But Ceretto kept on explaining.  “I put a lot of thought into where the funding I secure does the most good,” he said again and again without realizing how true that statement was and how refreshingly transparent.

He went on. “A big part of my criteria is which non-profits or community organizations, like local VFWs,  [veterans votes] healthcare centers [nurse and doctors vote], or SPCAs [animal lovers, I can take pictures with rescue dogs and put it on Facebook] …the penguin exhibit at the aquarium [The aquarium people that’s a very wired group. I mean who cares about stupid penguins] …the Sanborn Area Historical Society [that should lock up Sanborn and all those history nuts who always vote] … These are all worthy projects that make our community stronger. [and my candidacy even stronger]”

The raft of emails back and forth kept voters amused. They were seeing the real John Ceretto.

One of Ceretto’s staff suggested sending letters asking everyone equally to suggest projects to be funded with the $1.6 million. Nichols wrote back ” I don’t think the process needs to be 100 percent fair to every municipality,” meaning Republican municipalities.

Another staffer chimed in and said, “We can do ‘good’ and still help ourselves.”

Nichols wasn’t sure about a $125,000 request for a Niagara Falls skateboard park. Skateboard park = ghetto kids.

Nichols wrote, “We will be attacked in the towns that we only care about the city. We need town democrats and republican voters to be successful. Francine DelMonte ignored the towns with the casino funds and they destroyed her.” And the skateboard park wasn’t funded.

Another project Nichols shot dead on arrival was a proposal to build a Tesla museum.

“James Hufnagel is working on [it]. He constantly criticizes John and the mayor,” Nichols wrote.

After all, this is Ceretto’s [i.e. taxpayers’ money]. How the hell would you waste a penny of that on Hufnagel who writes for the Niagara Falls Reporter.

And Ceretto did not disagree with a word.

But if you really want to understand the real John Ceretto as opposed to the nice guy dummy image he likes to project, consider this email:

One of his staffers asked him if he would like to attend a meeting held by Canadian and U.S. customs officials (Nov. 4, 2015) at Kleinhans Music Hall to discuss how to reduce long wait times for drivers crossing the border, a topic Ceretto claimed to have a deep interest in since Ceretto’s district includes three international bridges.

His staffer naively asked him if it would be worthwhile to attend.

Ceretto emailed her back and in four short crisp sentences he crystalized the whole rule of being a Public servant:

Ceretto wrote, “Rule of thumb on calendar events: Ask yourself. Does this help John Ceretto get re-elected if I was to attend?? If the answer is NO then you probablay (sic) don’t attend.”

Of course in rebuttal to these wonderful emails are Ceretto’s wonderful $300,000 plus in television ads where he proclaimed, “I will continue to have zero tolerance for elected officials who abuse their office, no matter what the party.”

So came the election. Morinello won by 4,000 votes.

When he lost, Ceretto released a written statement:

“I congratulate my opponent, Angelo Morinello, for winning a hard-fought race. Western New York families deserve a state Assembly representative who will clean up the corruption in Albany, lower taxes, bring funding to our area for better roads and bridges and create more good-paying job opportunities. I am proud of the campaign that I ran and I give a heartfelt thanks to all of those who supported me along the way. I wish Mr. Morinello well in Albany.”

I wonder if Ceretto realized, when he gave his email concession that while he said the people of Western New York deserve a Representative who will lower taxes, build roads and new opportunities, that he had done none of that?

But he did hit the mark when he said, “Western New York families deserve a state Assembly representative who will clean up the corruption in Albany “and he wished Morinello well.

Based on the standards Ceretto showed us, Albany is minus one corrupt politician – which Morinello, by his victory, dispatched.

Now how in the hell will Morinello clean up the other 158?


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