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By Mike Hudson

Judge Robert Restaino's in and Connie Lozinsky's out of the race for the full-time position on the city court bench that will open later this year when Judge John Mariano retires.

Lozinsky, who had been seriously considering a run for the post, told the Reporter that a fight for the Democratic line would ill-serve both the party and the bench to which she still aspires.

"I don't want to get into a primary with Bobby," she said. "I think I could do well, but there have been enough battles in the Democratic party already."

Lozinsky, a former city councilwoman and city council chairman who now maintains a private law practice with offices on Pine Avenue, said she will likely run for the part-time city judge position that will open next year, assuming Restaino wins Mariano's seat.

"I'll be meeting with (Democratic City Chairman) Leo Alcuri this week, looking for some assurance of support for that," she said. "I must say that I look at some of my friends on the Republican side with a little bit of envy."

The only two women serving on the bench, Supreme Court Judges Amy Fricano and Sara Sperrazza, are Republicans.

But Lozinsky gave Restaino high marks as a judge.

"I've been before him as a lawyer, and he's always been thoughtful and fair," she said. "And you can't argue with his experience."

Restaino announced his candidacy to a packed crowd estimated at about 500 people last week in the banquet hall of the Como restaurant.

In an atmosphere that was more like a victory celebration, state Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte, county Democratic Party Chairman Nick Forster, most members of the city council and just about every lawyer in Niagara Falls mingled with union members, municipal employees and others supporting Restaino's bid.

"I'm going into this with one intention, and that's to win," Restaino said.

Since his election as part-time judge in 1996, Restaino has presided over 45,000 cases--everything from traffic violations to arson, rape and murder cases. He played a role in the development of the city's Drug Court and Domestic Violence Court, as well as the Juvenile Justice Board and Juvenile Justice Court.

A lawyer since 1986, Restaino spent a decade serving with the Niagara County District Attorney's office, and also worked as an assistant public defender in city court. Restaino said the experience gives him a unique perspective.

"I've seen the criminal justice system from both sides," he said. "I know the concerns of the defendants as well as those of the police and the prosecutors."

Restaino's brother, former city administrator Tony Restaino, said he was pleased but not surprised at the large turnout.

"I think it's just a reflection of the depth of Bob's support," he said. "He's done a good job for the city and I think people know that."

Republican City Councilwoman Barbara Ann Geracitano said Restaino would receive her enthusiastic support.

"There's no one in the city more qualified for this position than Judge Restaino," she said. Likewise, Forster said Restaino would be the endorsed candidate of the Democratic Party here.

"Clearly, Bobby's our guy," he said.