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SEP 16- SEP 24, 2014

Veteran Reporter, Political Figure Tony Farina Joins Destino Campaign

By Tony Farina

September 16, 2014

Johnny Destino with his wife, Julia, holding their son, Lucan, 4, and their sons, Ciaran, 9, and Beanon, 6.

In 1994, I took a brief break from my television broadcasting career to help Dennis Vacco pursue the state GOP nomination for attorney general. Even though I was a Democrat, I joined with Republican Vacco because I knew him to be an extraordinarily qualified candidate with his background as the chief of the Erie County DA’s grand jury bureau and a former U. S. attorney for the WNY region.

We traveled to every county in the state that spring, bringing a message of strong law enforcement credentials and unquestioned integrity. We were successful and Dennis was nominated at the state convention and went on to win the office of attorney general in a heavily Democratic state where he served with great distinction for four years, a lone figure from Western New York serving as one of the state’s top elected officials.

While I returned to broadcasting after his election, I returned as his chief speechwriter in 1998 where I served for the last year of his term. It was indeed a great honor and privilege to serve at that level after all my years as an investigative reporter, first in newspapers and then in television.

I went on to work as communications director for State Sen. Anthony Nanula after leaving the attorney general’s office in March of 1999 and later served for 10 years as the first assistant in the Buffalo city comptroller’s office, first for Nanula and then for Andy SanFilippo, responsible for just about everything. I’m touching on my background, both in news and politics, for a reason as I am announcing today that I am joining the campaign of Democrat Johnny Destino for state senate in the 62nd District, the seat long held by George Maziarz who is not seeking re-election.

I will no longer write about that race for the Reporter as it would be a conflict of interest. But I am taking this occasion to explain my decision to join Destino as a media consultant as he bids to win the seat in November against North Tonawanda Mayor Robert Ortt, the endorsed Republican candidate.

I’ve joined up with Destino’s campaign because I believe it is time for a change in the district which includes all of Niagara and Orleans and two towns in western Monroe County.

The seat is open because Republican Maziarz decided not to seek re-election in the face of a federal investigation into his use of his campaign funds. Maziarz has long ruled the district with an iron fist and Ortt, supported by the Maziarz machine, would pick up where Maziarz left off.

And where did Maziarz leave off? Well, he climbed the ranks of power in the state senate with his long tenure, and while he was a Republican he played ball with governors of both parties to keep his influence in Albany and his power base back home. But he is leaving in the midst of a scandal, and in the city of Lockport, where his brother-in-law is the city treasurer and where the state has had to authorize an emergency borrowing bill to keep the city afloat. A state audit pinned much of the blame on the treasurer, Michael White, for the city’s fiscal meltdown.

Now there were others involved, and White blamed former Republican Mayor Michael Tucker and the council for leaving a key position vacant. But White should have been ringing the bell from the top of city hall to warn residents the city was running out of money. He didn’t, and neither did Maziarz.

The inside baseball on Maziarz was that nobody got a job without his blessing, and that iron fist carried over to rewarding GOP contributors for their help with lucrative public contracts approved by his legislative supporters. I think it is time to change that brand of government and initiate what Destino calls the “politics of inclusion,” where you don’t have to be a fat cat contributor or a political crony to get ahead. It’s time to start with a clean slate, and I think Destino can do it.

In the interest of full disclosure: Veteran journalist, political consultant ,and Niagara Falls Reporter Senior Editor, Tony Farina has taken a role in the State Senate campaign of Johnny Destino. As a result of his affiliation with the Destino campaign, Farina will not cover, or act as editor on, stories involving the race between Destino and his opponent Robert Ortt.

Destino, a lawyer by profession, helps oversee budgets of close to $180 million as a member of the Niagara Falls School Board and the Orleans Niagara BOCES. By comparison, his opponent manages a $42 million budget in North Tonawanda.

Destino, a married father of three, worked for the $1.5 billion Seneca Gaming Corporation where he served as technical services manager and as operations manager. He helped oversee the opening of the computer and gaming networks at all three Seneca properties in the region and was responsible for budgets and the management of more than 20 employees across Western New York.

Destino was a Republican, but changed parties after his path to public service was blocked by the Maziarz political machine after he dared challenge King George in a primary. His goal then, as it is now, is to serve the people, and I believe he will do a good job if he’s elected.

There are many pieces to his “politics of inclusion” platform, including campaign finance and ethics reforms, creation of a student loan refinancing program to help families lower interest rates, and expanding infrastructure by extending fiber-optic networks and utilities to rural communities.

There is much more to the Destino message and you will be hearing about it in the coming weeks. This candidate also supports efforts to repeal the SAFE Act although the tougher gun laws now in place following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings which left 28 dead will not be rolled back easily.

Niagara Falls Democratic Chairman Nick Forster calls Destino “the right man, at the right time, for the right job.” In the coming weeks, you can expect to hear many more party leaders from across Western New York get behind the Destino candidacy. That’s because they see an opportunity to end the rule of the Maziarz years which left many people in the district out in the cold in order to reward the few who stood with King George. Many of those leaders will be on hand Sept. 25 at the Legion Post at the city market in Niagara Falls for a major endorsement event for Destino.

George Maziarz served for almost 20 years, and he has a list of accomplishments to his credit, including being a key figure in bringing Nik Wallenda to Niagara Falls for his historic tightrope walk across the gorge. I’ve known George for a long time and I wish him well in retirement. But I firmly believe his departure represents an opportunity for change, and I believe that Johnny Destino can give the district a boost with his private and public experience and his legal background.

In short, I’m joining with Destino in what will likely be my last campaign because I think he is the right man at the right time. The Maziarz rule is ending and it makes no sense to keep it going with Ortt. Look at the mess in Lockport, at the patronage handed out to the friends of the machine, and the high energy costs residents are paying despite having one of the world’s greatest generators of hydropower in the back yard.

It is indeed time for change, and I think Destino is the right choice.





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©2014 The Niagara Falls Reporter Inc.
POB 3083, Niagara Falls, N.Y. 14304
Phone: (716) 284-5595

Publisher and Editor in Chief: Frank Parlato
Managing Editor: Dr. Chitra Selvaraj
Senior Editor: Tony Farina