Restaino Wins Big Victory in Niagara Falls Mayoral Race; Tompkins & Spanbauer Lead Council Race

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By: Tony Farina

Less than an hour after the polls closed at 9 p.m. Tuesday night, Robert Restaino thanked his cheering supporters gathered at the Como Restaurant  for their support in helping him score a huge victory in the four-way race for mayor of Niagara Falls.

“You have helped start a brand new chapter,” the former judge told his supporters as he stated it was “no small task” to win almost 50 percent (49.5) of the vote in the four-way contest, saying voters had clearly embraced his message of change.

As of late Tuesday, Democrat Restaino had 4,431 votes or 49.58 percent of the votes cast.   Republican Glenn Choolokian had 2,269 votes (25.39 percent), Working Families candidate Seth Piccirillo 615 votes (6.88 percent), and Independent cadidate Jeffrrey Elder 1,517 votes (16.98 percent). There were 103 write-in vote.  Total voter turnout exceeded 30%.

 

 

Unofficial returns late Tuesday showed Republican John Spanbauer with a very slight lead over Democrat Alicia Kenyon for one of two open council seats, meaning that along with Kenny Tompkins’ re-election victory, the GOP would take control of the council by a 3 -2 margin.  But with more than 300 absentee ballots still to be counted, the results could change.   

 

 

Restaino was excited but measured in talking about his victory which followed his narrow win by 129 votes over Piccirillo in the Democratic primary in June.   Piccirillo had been a top aide to outgoing Mayor Paul Dyster and he remained in the race on the Working Families line but didn’t campaign.

Restaino expressed disappointment at the negative tenor of the campaign for mayor but is clearly anxious to move ahead with his plans for his administration beginning Jan. 1, knowing full well there are no easy answers to help Niagara Falls meet its financial challenges.

The former City Court judge and current president of the city board of education says he will stay out of the current budget deliberations under way in city hall and let the current council work their way through it with a garbage user fee and a slight tax increase among the items being deliberated as the city tries to cope with a more than $4 million budget gap.    

If asked, Restaino said he would be willing to offer his thoughts on dealing with the budget deficit-closing measures and various options but said he didn’t want to ride in at this point after the deliberations are already well under way. 

He does plan to move forward with a collaborative approach to fixing Niagara Falls, reaching out to neighboring communities to find ways to reduce costs by working together, something he had talked about the entire campaign.

The mayor-elect will soon put together a group of experienced people to interview candidates for leadership positions in his administration after which he will review the list that he receives and conduct his own interviews.

“At the end of the day, I’m the guy they have to deal with,” said Restaino, and he knows and said over and over again there are tough decisions to be made to get the city back on solid footing, and that includes working with the Seneca Nation on cooperative ways to help both sides in the future.

“I’ll continue to meet with the Senecas, as I have been doing, to find ways we can work together to make conditions better,” said Restaino, a nod to the ongoing revenue sharing stalemate that has cost the city millions of casino dollars.

Niagara Falls City Republican Chairman Bill Carroll paid a visit to Restaino headquarters shortly before midnight, perhaps a sign of future cooperation to help deal with the city’s problems.

If John Spanbauer’s lead holds up after the absentee ballots are counted, Republicans will take control of the council for the first time in 50 years.

“For the moment, at least, that’s the way it is,” said a jubilant Carroll who all along had hoped Spanbauer and Tompkins would would win and give control to the Republicans for the first time in half a century.

The new GOP majority, if Spanbauer’s lead holds up, would include incumbent Republican lawmaker Chris Voccio who was not on the ballot this year.  Voccio also stopped by Restaino’s headquarters to pay his respects to the mayor-elect.

While Choolokian was technically the Republican mayoral candidate, the GOP under Carroll had not endorsed him and seemed to support Restaino from the beginning, extending open arms to the former judge when he showed up at last summer’s GOP picnic.

             

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