NIAGARA FALLS – A two-term city lawmaker at the center of a political firestorm involving an anonymous campaign flier that attacked a downtown developer lost his bid Tuesday for a major party line in November.
Incumbent Samuel F. Fruscione received the fewest votes in a four-way race for three spots on the Democratic line in the general election for City Council, according to unofficial results from the Niagara County Board of Elections.
That means challenger Andrew P. Touma and incumbents Kristen M. Grandinetti and Charles A. Walker move on as candidates on the Democratic line in the general election.
Touma was the top vote-getter with 2,171 votes; Walker was second with 1,994; Grandinetti came in third with 1,721; and Fruscione was last with 1,338.
In a concession speech, Fruscione told a crowd of supporters in his Pine Avenue headquarters that his loss was due in part to “character assassination on my ethnicity.”
He asserted there were “games and antics that occurred from many media sources toward the Italian-American community.”
He also referenced an anonymous political flier that he called “solid racism.” “You paint a silly picture of somebody, people tend to believe it,” he said.
Fruscione also accused the city Democratic Committee and Mayor Paul A. Dyster of orchestrating the flier, which was dubbed the “Niagara Examiner.” City Democratic Chairwoman Alicia M. Laible has denied that her committee had any role in the flier.
Fruscione will appear on the Conservative and Independence Party lines in November.
Fruscione, a former Council chairman, has been on the Council since 2006, He is one of three members of the Council majority, which also includes Chairman Glenn A. Choolokian and Councilman Robert A. Anderson Jr., who are political foes of Dyster and have tabled a $25 million downtown hotel and apartment project for two months.
Fruscione said he does not believe his stance on the Hamister project hurt him in the race.
In the week preceding the primary contest, there were two anonymous political mailers sent out in the Falls – one supporting Fruscione, and one critical of him.
The mailer backing Fruscione also was highly critical of developer Mark E. Hamister, whose $25 million proposal for a downtown property at 310 Rainbow Blvd. was selected from a group of five submissions after a request for proposals was issued by the state.
The political piece praised Fruscione for asking questions about the proposed development deal, while asserting that Hamister is “running a con game” on Niagara Falls.
The political flier was sent by the Western New York Progressive Caucus, a political action committee partially funded by Fruscione ally and former Erie County Democratic Chairman G. Steven Pigeon. Hamister nearly pulled his development proposal from consideration after the flier came out.
Fruscione denied any involvement with the mailer, and said he did not know anything about where it came from.
Hamister called the flier “despicable” and thanked Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo for his personal involvement that prevented him from walking away from the project.
The other flier, which arrived under the heading “Niagara Examiner,” also did not arrive with any markings that identified its source.
Touma, dean of students at LaSalle Preparatory School, will also appear on the Working Families Party line.
Walker, who is the Council’s longest-serving member, works as manager of community outreach at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center.
Grandinetti, a prekindergarten teacher in the city, is seeking her second term. She will also appear on the Working Families line in November.
Tuesday night’s winners will face Republicans Robert J. Elder, Vincent M. Sandonato and Russell F. Vesci in the bid for the three open Council seats in the Nov. 5 general election.
Of the city’s nearly 26,000 registered voters, about 16,000 are registered Democrats, according to figures provided by the county Board of Elections.