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Losing Conservative Line Spelled Defeat for Wojtaszek

By Tony Farina

Ralph Lorigo
Mark Montour
Paul Wojtaszek
George Maziarz

The bitter political battle between State Sen. George Maziarz (R-Newfane) and Erie County Conservative Party Chairman Ralph Lorigo may have doomed the judicial candidacy of Paul Wojtaszek in last week's election in which Mark Montour defeated Wojtaszek by 14,166 votes.

The final total in the race for the coveted Supreme Court seat was 133,967 for Montour to 119,801 for Wojtaszek, a Niagara County legislator and a Supreme Court law clerk who was strongly supported by Maziarz.

A breakdown of the numbers shows that Montour, a Lancaster town justice and acting Buffalo City Court judge, polled a total of 17,186 votes on the Conservative line in Erie and Niagara Counties, the bulk of those votes (14,662) coming in Erie.

In more politically harmonious times, Wojtaszek, who ran on the Republican and Independence Party lines, would have also enjoyed the Conservative line and the more than 17,000 votes that went with it. But he didn't get the Conservative endorsement over Montour because of the fight between Lorigo, the longest sitting party chairman in Erie County, and Republican powerhouse George Maziarz.

Lorigo managed to deliver the Conservative nod to Montour over opposition from Maziarz and Niagara County Conservative Chairman Dan Weiss (seen as a Maziarz puppet) and that pretty much spelled defeat for Wojtasek's candidacy.

Lorigo and Maziarz split last year when Lorigo denied Republican State Sen. Mark Grisanti the Conservative endorsement after Grisanti cast the deciding vote in the State Senate in favor of gay marriage.

Lorigo had backed Grisanti in his first run against Antoine Thompson but said he broke his promise to the party with his gay marriage vote and the party endorsed Democrat Chuck Swanick for the senate seat, creating the rift with Maziarz who was worred that if Grisanti lost, it would tip the control of the State Senate to Democrats and greatly diminish his political power. Despite losing the Conservative line, Grisanti won and now Republicans share power with a group of renegade Democrats, keeping Maziarz in a position of power.

Maziarz and Lorigo have been at odds ever since even though they reportedly were near a truce that was blown up by Grisanti's vote in favor of the Safe Act gun control legislation.

The Grisanti affair also broke longstanding political ties between Maziarz and former Erie County Democratic Chairman Steve Pigeon, a close political ally of Lorigo, who had pushed for the Swanick endorsement over Grisanti.

The fight continues to this day, and the biggest political casualty so far is Paul Wojtaszek who's brother, Henry, is a key operative in Maziarz' political machine.



Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr. www.niagarafallsreporter.com

Nov 12, 2013