Tonawanda News

September 13, 2012

Labor jumps into Senate fray

By Joyce M. Miles
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — The New York State Working Families party is weighing in on a “stalking horse” candidate’s shenanigans in the 62nd District state Senate primary contest.

On Wednesday, state party co-chairman Paul Schuh blasted Timothy Moriarty, a party member whose name appears on the Working Families primary ballot today. Voters will choose Moriarty or Amy Hope Witryol, whom the statewide party endorsed months ago.

Moriarty is a “Republican stalking horse (who) did not walk his own petitions, did not respond to press inquiries, and did not even respond to the invitation to a respected candidate forum. He hasn’t run a campaign at all,” Schuh said in a press release from the party. “(Moriarty is) only in the race to derail the Working Families Party from being able to select our candidate.”

Jesse Lenney, who was a member of the endorsing committee that interviewed Moriarty, said Wednesday that he questioned Moriarty’s true interest in running for state Senate. He claimed that Moriarty openly said he was pursuing the party line upon the encouragement, and request, of a friend — North Tonawanda Mayor Rob Ortt, a Republican. 

Moriarty “didn’t seem very interested in the Working Families (platform). ... It was clear to us in the interview (that) he wasn’t interested in the seat, he was doing a favor for a friend,” Lenney said.

Ortt flatly denied asking Moriarty to run.

“I’ve never had a discussion with Tim about running for any office. He’s certainly not running as a favor to me,” Ortt said Wednesday night. “I know Tim, but not real well, certainly not well enough to have encouraged him to run for office. The only person I support in this race is Senator Maziarz.”

Moriarty did not return a call seeking comment on his candidacy and the WF endorsement interview. He hasn’t returned any phone calls from Greater Niagara Newspapers, or seemingly any other media, since he became a candidate.

The origin of Moriarty’s campaign, such as it is, came into greater focus this week with the emergence of several pro-Moriarty mailers to party members earlier this week. The unsigned letters used the Working Families and UAW logos “falsely,” a party official said. Witryol also is endorsed by the UAW New York State Region 9 CAP.

Moriarty is one of several potential candidates for 62nd District state senate who were interviewed by a Working Families endorsing committee earlier this year, according to Lenney, the party’s upstate political coordinator.

Like all interviewees, Moriarty was asked for his pledge to not challenge the endorsee if he wasn’t selected. Lenney said Moriarty made that pledge — and then broke his word by filing petitions to fight Witryol for the party line.

If Moriarty wins today’s primary he would likely sap votes away from Witryol’s overall tally in November.

Working Families officials again raised the suspicious circumstances under which Moriarty’s designating petitions were passed. None were carried by Moriarty himself or any fellow Working Families party member, they were carried exclusively by notaries public and commissioners of deeds who all happen to be Republican party functionaries or associates. 

Among those responsible for getting Moriarty on the ballot were Glenn Aronow, a former member of veteran GOP state Sen. George Maziarz’s staff; Michael Carney, Niagara County deputy GOP election commissioner; Patti Weiss, a member of the county Republican executive committee; James Sobczyk, Niagara County auditor and a Conservative party operative; and Niagara County Legislator Tony Nemi, an Independence party member who caucuses with the GOP majority.

Witryol, who spent time “door knocking” at Working Families homes Wednesday, trying to undo misinformation contained in the unsigned, pro-Moriarty campaign literature, said she would not comment on Ortt’s alleged connection with the race.

However, of Moriarty and the GOP — which has a 62nd District senate primary of its own today, between Maziarz and Niagara Falls attorney Johnny Destino — she had plenty to say.

Witryol doesn’t believe Moriarty personally had anything to do with the anonymous mailers, she said; instead they seem to be another example of “dirty politics” by GOP operatives. Moriarty appears to be a candidate in name only, she added.

“Based on what I’ve heard, I don’t think he’s doing anything: He’s not campaigning, he’s not answering questions from the media ... . Clearly this is a candidate that’s being backed by the Maziarz machine,” Witryol said.

There’s “good news and bad news” in the hyper-political story that’s being played out at the polls today, she added.

“If their polls are telling them this race is close enough that they have to manipulate the public’s choices ... the bad news is, manipulating the public’s choices is harmful to democracy. If there’s a silver lining, it’s that George Maziarz is worried about my candidacy,” Witryol said. “And that’s good news for the public. It means they really have a choice this time.”