BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – The fight to fill the seat of Republican State Senator George Maziarz is taking shape in the 62nd District.
Maziarz, one of the most powerful senators in New York, is retiring after 19 years in office. He is also the subject of a federal probe into questionable campaign expenditures.
Republican North Tonawanda Mayor Rob Ortt threw his hat in the ring Tuesday. His opponents say he was being groomed by powerful party members for the Maziarz seat.
Ortt credits Maziarz with being “an incredibly hard worker on behalf of his constituents.” Ortt says he will bring “a new voice [and] my own personality and my own skills to this position.”
There are 5,000 more Democrats enrolled in the Maziarz district, which includes all of Niagara and Orleans counties and part of Monroe County. Ortt has twice been elected mayor in North Tonawanda, which also has more Democrats registered than Republicans. He is an Army National Guard veteran who served in Afghanistan.
The race is expected to draw statewide attention because the Republican control of the State Senate may be at stake.
Ortt said, “It’s an important race to keep Republican control, because otherwise, [the Senate is] going to be controlled by downstate Democrats.”
He faces a primary challenge from Orleans County Republican Gia Arnold, who says, “All of the parties have their own cycles of corruption going on, and I think that if we really want to see change as constituents, and we want to see the state headed in the right direction, we need to have representatives of the people.”
She feels her candidacy has been ignored by power brokers in the Republican and Conservative parties.
The Democrat in the race is Johnny Destino, a Niagara Falls attorney and member of the school board. He has accused Maziarz of being “one of the most corrupt politicians in the state.” Destino vows to launch an aggressive campaign.
“We’re going to go door to door,” he said. “We’re going to get out and meet the people and let them know, you do have a choice now. I’m not afraid to stand up to the [Niagara County] GOP machine.”
He says he has the full backing of the Democratic party in Niagara County.