NIAGARA FALLS – The election is six months away, but candidates in two Niagara County Legislature districts in Niagara Falls already are drawing battle lines for the fall campaign.
Republican candidates threw their hats into the ring last week in two of the three districts represented by Democrats. In both, incumbents are running for their second terms.
Democratic Party Chairman Nicholas J. Forster has vowed to cut into the GOP’s 12-3 Legislature majority, but the Democrats need to defend the turf they hold in the Falls.
In the 4th District, Democrat Owen T. Steed is being challenged by Candace J. Corsaro, who changed her affiliation from Democratic to Republican a few months ago.
In the 5th District, Democrat Jason A. Zona faces off against Giulio G. Colangelo, who served in the Legislature briefly as an appointee in 2011. Colangelo is an Independence Party member who expects to have the Republican endorsement.
Steed, the only African-American legislator, represents the county’s most heavily Democratic district.
“My first term has taught me how important it is to change the direction and priorities in county government, and to do more to help people, especially with economic development and jobs,” Steed said. “We also need to focus more resources to provide for human needs, as the people in my district and across Niagara County continue to face high unemployment and suffering due to economic hardship.”
Steed, a part-time community liaison for the Niagara Falls Police Department, was the only legislator to vote against the county’s decision to begin paying shelter allowances of welfare clients directly to landlords as of June 1. Corsaro, a landlord herself, called the new law “fantastic.”
But Corsaro said more could be done.
“I don’t feel the legislators are doing much for us,” she said. “I think the legislative body should be more involved with Niagara Falls.”
She said the county’s economic development agencies should do more to direct companies looking for sites into the city.
Corsaro ran for the Legislature with GOP backing in 2007 and lost to then-Legislator Renae Kimble. She also was defeated in a race for the City Council in 2011, finishing last in a five-way Democratic primary.
Colangelo was a legislator for the last six weeks of 2011 after being appointed to replace Richard A. Marasco, who resigned because of ill health.
“The good thing on my end is, he compiled a voting record,” Zona said. “He supported an awful budget that year and voted in lockstep with the majority.”
Zona, a city firefighter, said the budget that year raised taxes 3.5 percent and maintained patronage jobs while abolishing annual salary increases for union workers.
Colangelo referenced that budget.
“At the time,” he said, “I felt the budget was predetermined before I got there. I looked it over and felt it was the best budget for maintaining services in Niagara County.”
“We’re just going to compare records,” Zona said.
“I want to bring bipartisanship to the Legislature, whereas Zona creates bickering and discord in the Legislature,” charged Colangelo, a Niagara Falls High School business teacher and lacrosse coach.