LOCKPORT – The Niagara County Legislature will remain in Republican control for another two years, but the Democrats did pick up one seat as they started what they hope will be a climb back to competitiveness.
Mark J. Grozio defeated incumbent Republican Cheree J. Copelin in the 3rd District in Niagara Falls’ LaSalle neighborhood, ending a remarkable winning streak for the GOP.
Copelin was the first registered Republican legislator in Niagara County to lose a bid for re-election in the 21st century. Grozio, a member of the city Planning Board and assistant business manager of Local 237, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, reclaimed a district that has long had a Democratic enrollment edge.
However, that was all the Democrats could gain, as the rest of the slate of Republican incumbents withstood the Democrats’ effort to knock off others they thought might be vulnerable. The result is an 11-4 GOP majority for the next two years.
Tuesday’s election extended the GOP’s record-setting run in control of the Legislature to 12 years.
“We have a supermajority in the Legislature and we have a majority in every town and city except the Town of Niagara and the City of Niagara Falls,” GOP Chairman Scott P. Kiedrowski said.
The GOP dominance was continued even though there are more registered Democratic voters in the county than there are Republicans.
The Democrats made efforts to knock off Majority Leader Richard E. Updegrove in Lockport and Anthony J. Nemi, an Independence Party member who votes with the GOP, in a Lockport-Pendleton district, but both incumbents withstood the challenges.
The Democrats ran Anthony P. Molinaro, a member of the Lockport Board of Education and a member of a family that runs a popular Lockport restaurant, against Updegrove.
Updegrove scored political points in mid-October, when he proposed using the county’s available surplus funds to produce a property tax cut next year.
The Democrats ran David J. Naus, president of Local 237, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, against Nemi, a retired City of Lockport Youth and Recreation Department employee. Naus, one of several union-connected Democratic candidates, failed to make a dent.
Also, taking a page from the GOP playbook, the Democrats used a minor party member, Conservative Joshua D. Walker, in an unsuccessful effort to try to beat Republican incumbent Michael A. Hill in a rural district that includes all of Royalton and Hartland and a piece of the Town of Lockport.
Walker, the son and grandson of two former Niagara County Conservative Party chairmen, was viewed by some as an awkward fit for the Democratic line. He eked out a four-vote victory over Hill in a Conservative primary that drew only 54 voters, but that didn’t translate to success in the 15th District with its heavy Republican enrollment edge.
Walker’s bid failed, but so did the GOP attempts to unseat first-termer Jason A. Zona in a district including part of the Town of Niagara and Niagara Falls, and 11-term Minority Leader Dennis F. Virtuoso in his Falls district.
They, along with first-termer Owen T. Steed of Niagara Falls, easily survived the challenges. Steed will remain the only African-American in the Legislature.