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JAN 13 - JAN 20, 2015

Handicapping the 2015 Race for Mayor

By Anna M. Howard

January 13, 2015

It is not yet known who will run against Mayor Paul Dyster this year.

This past September the Reporter featured a cover story that detailed the potential challengers to Paul Dyster's 2015 reelection for mayor.

That story listed some likely Dyster challengers, a few maybe challengers, and a couple of long shot challengers.

2015 is already here and within three months any candidate that is serious about wanting to unseat Paul Dyster had better organize a campaign crew, nail down their donor list and prepare to walk their nominating petitions in June.

Paul Dyster occupies the mayor's throne right now and that could prove the undoing of Mr. Dyster…his notion that he is not so much a mayor as a king. His constant demand that casino funds be spent only as he sees fit, his inexcusably poor handling of the budget process, the terrible way the trash program was rolled out, increased taxes, increased crime, a needless train station, an animal shelter in the works and endless raises, stipends and overtime for favorite city hall employees while blaming the rank and file for the budget problems has shown that the mayor has more than enough chinks in his armor to make him vulnerable this year.

But, will he even seek reelection? Rumors persist that he may be in line for a state appointment and that the City Democratic Committee is preparing to talk him out of running due to the laundry list of problems he brings to the table (see above).

Candidates are, at the end of the day, like canned tomatoes…they have an expiration date. Has Dyster expired? We're going to find out.


Glenn Choolokian

Dyster's major challenger could be Glenn Choolokian, 2013 council chairman, who is in his fourth year on the council. Choolokian has never been known for raising large amounts for money but that shortcoming could be made up through grass roots support, and he appears to have plenty of that. Outspoken and sometimes even blunt his approach often strikes just the right chord with the voters in this hardscrabble town. Choolokian was out in front of the fracking issue long before Cuomo issued the state ban. If Choolokian left office today his accomplishment in that area alone would put his name in the city's political history books.

Robert Restaino


Former Judge Robert Restaino is well known across town and well liked in the right circles. Does he want to run? At this moment he is a practicing attorney and the hired legal gun for the city council as he reviews the condition of the city charter while on a monthly council retainer. Would Dyster hand Restaino a job to get him off the playing field? Say, the job of city administrator or corporation counsel? Possibly. Both of those jobs pay more than the office of mayor. The problem is both of those jobs are now occupied…unless someone retires or is fired.

John Accardo


John Accardo is reported to be pacing the locker room waiting to get the race started. John is a likeable businessman and no stranger to the unpredictable world of Niagara Falls politics. A former mayor candidate, former councilman and former assembly candidate he has been around and knows how to campaign. Some question if he has the fire in the belly needed to make the run but rumor has it that the City Republican Committee are going to work hard to get him across the finish line in November.

Vince Anello


Vince Anello, a former councilman and former mayor who has never been accused of lacking fire in the belly, has been mentioned not only as a possible mayor candidate but also as a council candidate. If the race for mayor seems a little too big of a lift we see Anello for council as a definite possibility. Vince has been through some serious personal challenges and has come out the other side all the wiser for it judging by his demeanor and presentation on his radio show.

Johnny Destino


How many times can a candidate lose a race and still remain a viable candidate in the eyes of the voters? Johnny Destino has lost for mayor, lost for state senate in the general and lost for state senate in the primary. He lost two of those races as a Republican and one as a Democrat as he was defeated for senate by Rob Ortt. The unwritten rules of politics say a three-time loser is finished as a future candidate, but rules are made to be broken. If Destino wants to break that rule he'll have to primary his fellow Democrat, Mayor Dyster.

Charles Walker


Charles Walker, a current council member and employee of Memorial Medical Center, has been on the city council for 18 years. So long that he will receive lifetime health insurance once he leaves city hall. Yes, a full time employment benefit for a part-time political office. Paul Dyster will also be eligible for the same lifetime health benefit once he leaves office. With all of the campaign finance reports that Mr. Walker has refused to file we have no doubt that not only will he not run for mayor, but we predict he will have his hands full finishing out his term as questions regarding his campaign finance continue to mount.

Seth Piccirillo


Four years ago Dyster brought Seth Piccirillo into his inner circle at city hall. Big pay, plenty of headlines and lots of praise followed for the wunderkind who was given the reins of Community Development. The famous Dirty Harry quote of "he's a legend in his own mind" comes quickly into the conversation whenever Seth's name pops up. We have been told that he may be in line for a significant raise through the Urban Renewal Agency. If true he would be making more pay as the CD director than as mayor. Isn't that interesting?

Craig Touma


Personal injury attorney, Craig Touma, from the first day Paul Dyster announced for mayor in 2007, has been the man behind the curtain as Dyster's campaign manager. He's the person who brings in the contributions from Buffalo and the man who calls the big shots for Dyster. We're betting he's having too much fun behind the scenes to step out front and risk a political tomato in the face in a run for mayor. His wife is city Judge Diane Vitello and his cousin is Councilman Andrew Touma who was recently seated as the council chairman.

Kristen Grandinetti


Is Niagara Falls ready for another female mayor and if so would that candidate be Kristen Grandinetti? We hear Ms. Grandinetti is more than a little upset about being passed over for council chairwoman two years in a row. To be honest the city council does look like a boys club, but we're hard pressed to think of anything memorable the councilwoman has accomplished in six years on the council. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, as Shakespeare famously wrote. Is Kristen feeling scorned enough to make the waves that come with challenging Dyster?

Renae Kimble


Renae Kimble is always a threat to run for local office. The former long time county legislator would have no trouble stirring interest should she decide to make the run. But, interestingly enough, she recently was hired by Memorial Medical Center and we're guessing that her new position is keeping her plenty busy and away from the drama that is part and parcel of local politics.

Candra Thomaso


Candra Thomason served on the council and she ran and lost for mayor against Dyster in 2007. A sharp businesswoman and nobody's fool she would definitely offer an alternative to the politics currently being played out in city hall. Keep an eye on the possible plans to turn the local YMCA building into a homeless shelter…the public outrage over the proposal could launch Candra's candidacy for mayor.

Other names we mentioned in our previous story on this topic seem to have made no move toward running and seem to be unlikely to enter the race. But things could change, of course.


• Robert Anderson

• Shawn Weber

• Robert Russell

• Sal Paonessa

• Ken Hamilton

• Alicia Laible

• George Satarian

• Guy Bax

• Dennis Virtuoso

• John Gross

• Sam Fruscione






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