October 19, 2009

County Democrats Once Again In Turmoil

Though it's been a common occurrence at election time under Niagara County Democratic Committee Chairman Dan Rivera, the internal fighting within the party has now flared to new levels.

Party insiders have told us that Rivera's tunnel-vision focus on certain races while virtually ignoring other contests has refueled what had been a simmering animosity towards Rivera from other party leaders and Democratic elected officials.

More specifically, party insiders are concerned with:
  • Rivera allowing 11th District County Legislator Paul Wojtaszek to go unopposed. Anyone and everyone who follows local politics knows that Niagara County GOP Chairman Henry Wojtaszek, Paul's brother, has beaten and humiliated Rivera for years. The fact that Rivera allowed Wojtaszek's brother to go unchallenged, especially in North Tonawanda, Rivera's home turf, has more than a few Dem insiders chuckling at Rivera's incompetence.
  • The refusal of Rivera to assist Lewiston Supervisor Fred Newlin, who is engaged in the most challenging race of his political career. Facing a double threat from Steve Reiter and Kathryn Mazierski, Rivera has refused to put aside his personal differences with Lewiston Dem Chairwoman Diane Roberts to provide aid to Newlin.
  • Rivera's obsession with winning the First Legislative District seat currently held by Jason Murgia. Rivera dumped a dozen pieces of mail, costing thousands of dollars, into the district prior to the September Primary Election. Granted, Marasco did win the election, but many are perplexed by the action since the seat will in all likelihood be part of the consolidation/downsizing of the county legislature when they re-district next year. With Niagara Falls likely to lose two seats in the county legislature, Rivera likely set the stage for a 2011 primary between two Dems, Marasco and Renae Kimble, instead of simply waiting for the downsizing to occur and allowing Kimble to challenge Murgia straight up.
  • Allowing North Tonawanda Mayor Larry Soos to flounder. Once again, in Rivera's backyard, Rivera has done little to help Soos combat the serious challenge from Republican Rob Ortt. Many Dem insiders are saying that Rivera's inability or unwillingness to provide Soos with the resources he needs to fend off Ortt is indicative of Rivera's "my way of the highway" approach.
  • Rivera pulling party resources off the campaign of Nick Melson in the Fifth Legislative District. After Melson, who works as an aide for Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte, lost his Working Families Party primary to Vince Sandanato through a write-in campaign by Sandanato, Rivera was so infuriated with Melson that he pulled two campaign workers who had been solely dedicated to Melson and reassigned them to Marasco. (One Dem commented that Rivera dumped Melson quicker than he did two years ago after county legislature candidate Bob LaBarbera's DWI arrest). This has left the Melson campaign in a serious lurch and some even greater hard feelings between Rivera and DelMonte.
On top of all of this, the fact that there are seven county legislature seats currently held by the GOP majority which are unopposed is not sitting well with many Dems in the county.

What does all of this mean? That remains to be seen, but in all likelihood it means the GOP will continue to hold a very comfortable majority in the county legislature, and a very real possibility of the GOP picking up wins in both the North Tonawanda mayoral and Lewiston supervisor races, two of the Democrats last bastions of success in the county. As for Rivera, he has a lot of work to do in order to get back into the good graces of those in his own party. If election night plays out the way it's shaping up, that effort may be futile.


James T. Kirk said...

That would explain a lot, Hobbes. This weekend, I had a hunger for pizza from Joey's, a little pizza shop in LaSalle that makes one of the better pies around.

On the way, I was simply astonished by the number of Sandonato signs on people's front lawns. Don't get me wrong, Melson had a presence, but Sandonato was easily beating him three-to-one in the sign primary, and Sandonato's signs weren't on vacant lots--something Melson can't say.

Maybe Francine will make Rivera an offer he can't refuse once this is over.

Barney said...

The problem with Melson is that he is NOT a LaSalle guy. He's a downtown transplant and everyone in LaSalle knows this.

Pat said...

Both candidates are young but Sandonato knows his constituency and cares about his neighborhood. Melson is just a Francine mini-me. It will be politics as usual. We need a fresh face with an untainted integrity.