NIAGARA FALLS – Niagara County Legislator Jason A. Zona and former Legislator Vincent M. Sandonato volleyed attacks back and forth Wednesday over whether the other had violated the law by not filing campaign finance reports.
Both men asserted they didn’t have to file this month, although both ended up doing so late Tuesday.
That didn’t come in time to stop a barrage of robocalls in the 5th Legislative District attacking Zona over the issue.
The exchange was unusual in that Zona, a Democrat, and Sandonato, an Independence Party member with Republican backing, are not running against each other.
While Zona is running for a second term in the Legislature, Sandonato is running for City Council.
The Democrats started the fight by sending out a news release accusing Sandonato of breaking the law because he hasn’t filed any financial data at all this year, nor has he formed a campaign committee.
All candidates were supposed to file something July 15.
“It’s ironic that Sandonato, who is studying to become a lawyer, simply ignores the election law,” County Democratic Chairman Nicholas J. Forster said in the release.
“And it’s further proof that Sandonato is not the fresh face he pretends to be, but rather a willing hack bought and paid for by the Republican machine that tells him which office to run for.”
“I don’t have a committee. I don’t have any fundraising,” Sandonato replied.
Asked how he’s going to get his message out in a citywide race, Sandonato said, “Hard work. Blue-collar campaigning, man.”
As for funds, he said, “The local party will do what they do for all elected officials.” He confirmed he was speaking of the GOP.
In a written response to the Democratic statement, Sandonato dragged Zona into the fray.
He emailed The Buffalo News: “Apparently the failure of Legislature candidate Jason Zona to file his July campaign contribution reports for nearly a month and his failure, again, to file an August report, has caused embarrassment for the local Democratic machine – and their response is the mudslinging we’ve all come to expect from them.”
Zona was late with his July filing, blaming a miscommunication with his now-former campaign treasurer.
State Board of Elections spokesman John Conklin said candidates who don’t have primaries, such as Zona and Sandonato, don’t have to file again until the reporting date 32 days before the general election.
Zona told The News, “I filed it anyway. Even though I don’t have to, I gave them a bonus.” He said that several GOP legislators who have November opponents but no primaries didn’t file August reports, either.
“These guys are obsessed with me. They’re putting out false information,” said Zona, whose latest filing shows a campaign balance of $7,039.
Sandonato said, “The local Democrats demanded that I file paperwork, so I just did. I filed a campaign financial disclosure report, indicating zero dollars in contributions.”