BY BILL WOLCOTT
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Niagara County Democrats got together, in their own way Monday night, and named Nick Forster their new party chairman at the annual reorganization meeting at the Cornell Cooperative Extension.
Interim chairman Jeremy Schnurr, seeing the buses from Niagara Falls and supporters for Forster in the audience, unexpectedly bowed out of the contest after his nomination was seconded. The committee members numbered 180, perhaps a record number, despite the fact that the meeting was in Republican territory.
Several of Schnurr's supporters left the meeting, some were in tears, as Democratic Elections Commissioner Nancy Smith cast the only vote needed to give Forster the job as party boss. A third candidate, Gary Parenti, dropped out last week.
A Schnurr supporter left the 4-H building very upset. "It's too hostile," she explained.
The bickering began at 7 p.m. when the meeting was scheduled to start. Forster, a state gaming inspector, was anxious to get the game going, but Schnurr delayed, looking for late arrivals. No more supporters came.
There was a fairly visible disagreement.
"The outcome was obvious," Schnurr said. "I had to see who showed. I'm familiar with enough people in the party to know who's here and who isn't here... I watched to see what happened. When I saw who was here, I weighed the matter. I am very, very upset by some of the things that have happened in the last few days that can cause breaches in the party on a long-term basis. I decided to decline the nomination."
Forster said, "Looking at all of the supporters for Nick Forster, I wasn't surprised."
Committee members had received anonymous mailings, some reportedly digging up Forster's past when he was a Niagara County Sheriff's Deputy and then a member of the Erie County Sheriff's Department. Schnurr claimed there were also negative mailings about him.
Forster had his team picked and named his officers, but ironically, did not reappoint Smith to the commissioner position. That angered Lockport Democrats who wanted know why Smith was not retained. The "ays" favoring Forster's decision were louder than the "nays."
A motion on the floor called for the commissioner appointment to be tabled and that motion carried 75-44, wrangling Smith's supporters. A show of hands said the new party boss ruled.
Ida Massaro of Niagara Falls, who returns as first vice chairman, feels any divison won't last. "I think they'll get over it," she said. "For the good of the party, they should get over it. That's how Democrats always work."
Massaro added, "It means we're going to take the party and move it forward — Get Democrats elected , that's our main goal."
Nominator James Joyce, noting that Republicans have dominated elections recently with 78 of the 86 public offices said, "This is a new beginning for the party."
Long-time sergeant of arms Rick Williams said of Forster, "He's a great organizer, he can turrn this around."
"Quite frankly, we have been in dire straiots for a long time," Forster said. "People have been looking for a leader and I re-emerged. Frankly, I think I'm the first country chair in history in the Starte of New York ever to return as party chairman."Democrat team First vice chairman -- Ida Massaro Second vice chairman -- Jim Sacco Third vice chairman -- Alicia Liable Treasruer -- Daryl Dinoto Secretary -- Geraldine Carpenter Sergeant at Arms -- Rick Williams, Joe Rich, Mike Coyle