Western New York voters on Tuesday elected the first Native American state judge in New York.
Mark A. Montour, a Lancaster town justice for six years, defeated Paul B. Wojtaszek, a law clerk and a Niagara County legislator, by a margin of 132,426 to 118,914, capturing 52 percent of the total votes.
Montour won on the strength of a 27,843-vote advantage in Erie County. He also fared well in Niagara County, where he finished only about 3,100 votes behind Wojtaszek, who won the six other counties in the judicial district.
“I’m extremely proud to be the first Native American state judge in New York,” Montour said. “I know my dad would be proud.”
The election filled a vacancy stemming from the retirement this year of former Justice Janice M. Rosa.
Montour, 55, an attorney for 30 years, served 12 years as a Lancaster town councilman before he was elected town justice. He is also an acting city judge in Batavia and Buffalo. He ran on the Democratic, Conservative and Working Families lines.
“Out of 524 state judges at the State Supreme Court, Appellate Division and Court of Appeals levels, not one is a Native American,” he told The Buffalo News before the election.
He said he is a member of the Mohawk tribe and does pro bono work for the Senecas.
He cited his experience as a town justice noting that while town and city courts handle misdemeanor crimes and State Supreme Court handles felonies, he has presided at felony arraignments and felony hearings before such cases move on to state court. He also said his private legal practice based in Elma handles a wide variety of cases. Wojtaszek, 47, of North Tonawanda, has been a lawyer for 23 years, the past 16 years as a law clerk to State Supreme Court Justice Russell P. Buscaglia. He ran on the Republican and Independence lines. He has been a Niagara County legislator for six years and previously served as an assistant state attorney general and a Niagara County assistant district attorney.
State Board of Elections campaign filings, so far, show Montour spending nearly 2½ times more than Wojtaszek on the judicial campaign through Monday. Montour spent $144,333 while Wojtaszek spent $59,962, according to their campaign finance disclosure reports.
Wojtaszek said he can guarantee he spent as much as Montour. He said the Board of Elections figures would show similar spending when the board updates the figures after Election Day.
Both candidates reported receiving about the same amounts of contributions, with Wojtaszek raising $61,364 and Montour raising $59,105.
The candidates, both University at Buffalo Law School graduates, ran unsuccessfully for State Supreme Court justice in 2010.
In the race for Erie County Family Court, both Democrat Mary Giallanza Carney and Republican Deanne M. Tripi won 10-year seats.
With 96 percent of districts reporting, Carney had 139,261 votes, and Tripi had 139,101. Both of them Amherst residents, Carney and Tripi had the Democratic, Republican, Conservative, Working Families and Independence lines. Buffalo attorney Joseph T. Jarzembek, running on the Children First line, received 7,563 votes.