In a quite decisive manner, James J. Faso, Jr. won the Niagara Falls City Court Judge race on every contested primary party line on Tuesday night. The Democratic, Republican, Conservative, Green, Working Families, Independence, Women’s Equality and Reform parties all went to Faso, to the disappointment of Alan J. Roscetti and Nicholas A. Pelosino, Jr., the other aspirants to the position. With no other party lines available, they are out of the running. Come Election Day on November 7, only James Faso’s name will be read across eight ballot positions.
In other words, Mr. Faso has already won.
It should be made clear that nothing is being implied, or should be inferred, about the quality of Mr. Faso as a candidate, the nature of his campaign or his presumed tenure on the bench. Mr. Faso won fairly, legally and honorably. The voters spoke and made their choice.
It just seems odd that the race is over after the first lap. These are supposed to be “contested” elections, so where is the competition? The primaries are meant to weed out the candidates within the party, not for the general election itself.
But apparently, that is what happened. There were 4,748 votes cast in the election, of which 2,263 went to Mr. Faso. This is across all party lines. Mr. Pelosino received 1,321 votes and Mr. Roscetti, 1,153. It demonstrates a clear preference for Mr. Faso, which cannot be denied. But when you consider that the estimated population of Niagara Falls is 48,632, it is not quite a mandate.
New York State allows fusion voting, which lets candidates for public office to run on the party lines with which they are not affiliated. Thus, an enrolled Republican can run on, and win, the Democratic line (or any others he or she becomes eligible to run on). In this case, Mr. Faso’s sweep of all of the lines has kept any other names from appearing on the November ballot.
If candidates could only run in their own party’s primary, it could guarantee there would be a contested election in November, even if the bulk of the voters belong to one or two of the parties. Mr. Faso received the vast majority of his votes on the Democratic line with 1,607, which alone outweighed the total votes Mr. Pelosino and Mr. Roscetti received from all lines.
All of this begs the question; can one candidate properly serve the agenda of every party line? In theory, a judge is supposed to be impartial, fair, and capable of acting without prejudice. A political party line, by its very definition, stands for a particular set of principles and values. While the Democratic party and the Working Families party may be similarly aligned, the Conservative party is not likely an easy fit with the Green party. Nonetheless, they all have the same standard bearer for the City Court Judge general election.
At the national level, these distinctions are more notable. Being a “conservative” or “progressive” judge is a part of their identity, and is reflected in their qualifications. Local judicial contests tend to focus more on philosophically neutral issues like temperament and experience. They cannot campaign on political issues, which somewhat makes one wonder why they run on political lines in the first place.
Nevertheless, Mr. Faso won in admirable fashion, and will undoubtedly serve with distinction. He did not make the system as it currently exists, and cannot be blamed for successfully operating within it. To the victor goes the spoils; in this case, the spoils are the scales of justice in the City of Niagara Falls.