Tonawanda News — A state senate candidate has filed suit in state supreme court in Niagara County in an effort to knock a challenger off the Sept. 13 primary election ballot — and while she’s at it, maybe deliver a shiner to her main foe, veteran state Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newfane.
Her opponent responded by saying he’s confident Witryol’s challenge won’t hold up when measured against current state election law and reviewed by a judge.
Amy Hope Witryol, the Democratic candidate for 62nd District senate, filed a verified petition in court Friday, contesting designating petitions filed by Timothy D. Moriarty of Sweeney Street, North Tonawanda, who, like her, is seeking to obtain the Working Families party line in the upcoming senate race.
Moriarty is a registered member of the Working Families party, but his petitions are not valid and, further, they’re proof of the “Maziarz political machine in Niagara County,” Witryol charged in a written statement.
Upon inspection, Witryol said she found that Moriarty’s petitions were carried by Republicans and county officials who affiliate with the Niagara County GOP, including: Glenn Aronow, a Maziarz Senate staff member; Patti Weiss, a member of the county GOP executive committee; James Sobczyk, the county auditor and former county legislature clerk; Michael Carney, deputy GOP election commissioner; and county Legislator Tony Nemi, an Independence party member who caucuses with the GOP majority.
Moriarty did not carry any petitions himself, according to the witness statement section of each sheet.
And the committee are invalid, Witryol’s suit alleges, because they list a “committee to fill vacancies” that is not composed of at least three Working Families party members as required under state election law.
Petitions are required to include a “Committee to Fill Vacancies” which determines a replacement for the candidate named on the petition should that candidate withdraw for any reason. The law requires the committee be composed of at least three members of the petition party.
The Moriarty petitions named a vacancy committee of four members, two of whom Witryol alleges are not Working Families members: Paul Siejak, a Republican town board member and deputy supervisor of the Town of Lockport; and Theresa Ceretto of Lewiston, an Independence party member and the daughter of GOP state Assembly member John Ceretto, R-Lewiston.
Witryol observed that the vacancies committee on Moriarty’s petitions was rounded out by Working Families party members Todd McNall, the son of GOP county Legislator William Keith McNall, and Robert O’Toole II, the son of Wheatfield Town Attorney Robert O’Toole.
In legal documents filed in court and submitted to the New York State Board of Elections, Witryol contends that the “Moriarity petitions are permeated with fraud and must be voided.” The suit further alleges that the petitions in question were “an attempt by the Republican Party to nominate a candidate whose candidacy would improve the chances of the Republican Party nominee, George Maziarz, in the general election.” Witryol has asked the court to void the designating petitions, or, in the alternative, declare the Committee on Vacancies void.
“Three days ago a caller on a local radio show expressed concern that George Maziarz has been manipulating minor party lines in Niagara County for years,” Witryol said. “The political corruption under George Maziarz has disenfranchised voters and left the three counties in his district in last place in the entire United States when it comes to taxpayer value. We’ve lost thousands of jobs during his 18-year reign. It’s time we took a stand against political corruption. Eighteen years is enough.”
In response Friday, Maziarz maintained that campaign reform efforts undertaken at the state level a few years ago changed the rules covering Committee on Vacancies. As a result, Maziarz said, such committees are no longer required in the form alleged by Witryol in her court filings. Maziarz said his office checked with the state board of elections to make sure its understanding of current law regarding such committees was clear. He added that he does not believe Witryol’s claims will hold up under scrutiny by the courts.
“A committee of Vacancies is no longer required,” he said. “You can have one or you don’t have to have one.”
As for Witryol’s claims that he has long “manipulated” minor party lines in Niagara County, Maziarz denied the accusation, characterizing it as the latest in a series of “desperate” claims made by a person he considers to be a “desperate” opponent.
“I think Amy Witryol is a desperate candidate,” he said. “I think next week she’s going to accuse me of something else.”
Witryol’s petition challenge is scheduled to be heard Aug. 6 in state Supreme Court in Niagara County. The presiding judge is Matthew J. Murphy III.