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OCT 14- OCT 21, 2014

Who’s Funding Ortt, Destino as 62nd District Senate Race Heats Up

By Mike Hudson

October 14, 2014

Speaking of old money, big time Democratic campaign contributor, Leonard Litwin, 99, (pictured at age 97) chose to donate to Republican Rob Ortt and not Democrat Johnny Destino. (Photo by Steve Friedman)

The State Senate campaign between Republican North Tonawanda Mayor Rob Ortt and Democratic Niagara Falls School Board member Johnny Destino for control of retiring State Sen. George Maziarz’s seat is shaping up to be one of the most heated in recent memory here on the Niagara Frontier.

Who is funding the two candidates, and why?

One thing seems to be abundantly clear: Ortt is getting big money from downstate contributors while Destino is relying for the most part on local contributors.

Ortt would seem to be Maziarz’s handpicked successor. A veteran of service in Afghanistan, he has served as North Tonawanda’s mayor since 2010. Prior to that, he was city treasurer and clerk since 2007.

Elected to the Niagara Falls School Board in 2010, Destino is also a member of the Orleans-Niagara BOCES board and narrowly lost his bid to become Niagara Falls mayor in 2011, losing to to incumbent Paul Dyster. The following year he lost a Republican primary bid against the well-heeled Maziarz for the 62nd District seat he hopes to win in the current election. Following that race, which Maziarz clearly resented,, Destino switched his affiliation to the Democratic Party as the Maziarz political machine sought to marginalize him in the GOP.

Johnny Destino addresses the audience at the Orleans County Democratic Party picnic in Albion. Photo courtesy Tom Rivers, Orleans Hub.

As might be expected in what is ultimately a statewide race given the stakes,, both candidates are taking money from sources outside the 62nd District. However the bulk of Destino’s contributions are in the $25 to $100 range and come from local contributors.

Ortt has plenty of those as well, but has also managed to pull in a number of big ticket donors from outside the district, perhaps suggesting the Maziarz network is alive and well despite the federal corruption probe.

Ortt recently accepted $3,500 from the New York City based Housing New York PAC, another $16,800 from Paul Singer, a New York City businessman and gay rights activist; a total of $20,000 from two real estate companies – Barclay Street Realty and Liberty Street Realty that share the same address in New Hyde Park, N. Y., and a second contribution from the Housing New York PAC for $6,500.

Robert Ortt, mayor of North Tonawanda, speaking at a pro-gun rally in Albion. Photo courtesy Tom Rivers, Orleans Hub.

New York City real estate billionaire Leonard Litwin, 99, a strong supporter of Gov. Andrew Cuomo who has reportedly given state Democrats a combined $465,000 to help in a takeover of the State Senate, strangely threw $2,500 at Republican Ortt’s campaign.

Perhaps liberal contributors like Litwin and Singer are doubtful of Destino’s Democratic commitment or simply believe Ortt is the likely winner, but, whatever the reason, Ortt has a commanding lead in money raised for the coming race thanks in great part from the downstate money.

Destino has taken $5,000 from a Coral Springs, Fla., company called Exclusive Beauty Supplies, which Destino supporters say is owned by relatives.





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