Tonawanda News

November 6, 2013

Ortt rolls up second term

By Michael Regan
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Republican North Tonawanda Mayor Rob Ortt swept to power for a second term Tuesday with a decisive victory over his Democratic challenger, Janet Zehr, by a 4,108-1,359 vote. 

Ortt, who won in a landslide in his 2009 triumph over incumbent Larry Soos with 65 percent of the vote, bested that performance Tuesday citing a torrent of development projects during his reign, a reduction in the city’s workforce and three budgets without a tax increase as among the reasons he should serve another term in office. 

In what was a clear message from voters, who overwhelmingly approved the 34-year-old’s first four years in office, Ortt captured 70 percent of the vote against Zehr, according to the Niagara County Board of Elections unofficial results. 

However, turnout had again slumped from 7,213 in 2009 to 5,468 on Tuesday. 

At the Fairways at Deerwood facility, where about 100 county Republicans gathered in support of candidates, Ortt briefly laid out his vision for the next four years. Ortt told supporters he would refocus on the city’s infrastructure and a block-by-block philosophy of fixing the long-ailing Oliver Street.

“You are seeing the results of this administration, my office, the common council over the past four years,” he said. “What you’re seeing is progress, not promises. And that’s why the voters sent this administration back for another four years.” 

The route follows a third Republican sweep of city goverment in as many election cycles, further casting doubt on the North Tonawanda Democrats ability to compete. 

Zehr, 73, a retired elementary school teacher who stood her ground against Ortt during a debate held in late October, had challenged the Republican establishment’s grip on the council. With four solid years of Republican control,  Zehr called into question Ortt’s use of a $3 million fund balance while criticizing the transparency of her opponent’s party. 

But it wasn’t enough, a point conceded by Zehr herself. 

“I never really thought I was going to win,” she said. “I knew it was going to be a longshot. People think the Republicans are wonderful. That’s what they wanted, that’s what they got. Maybe we just didn’t have a good platform. We’ll give them a good fight next time, we’re not done yet.”

Zehr also thanks Ortt for “not using low tactics.”

“There was no mud slinging, he was a gentleman,” she said. “It’s quite obvious we need to get some younger people, we need to get people with energy. We need to start all over again. Maybe we need new leadership.” 

Ortt, meanwhile, said he would like to focus on the city’s streets, water and sewer lines, as well as new rounds of union contracts during the next four years, with a plan to summarize his term during a January State of the City address. 

“It will certainly be more of what we’ve already done as well,” he said. “But you can’t rest on your laurels.”