Incumbent Democratic Falls Mayor Robert Restaino turned back a pair of challengers on Tuesday to win his party’s 2023 primary election.
Restaino, who had the Democratic party endorsement for a second term as mayor, handily defeated former City Council Member Glenn Choolokian and community activist Demetreus Nix.
Despite what elections officials described as a “very low” turnout, vote tallies from the Niagara County Board of Elections were excruciatingly slow. When polls closed at 9 p.m., the county board immediately posted the results of early balloting, which showed Nix out to an early lead, with Restaino second and Choolokian third.
But just before 10 p.m., Restaino’s campaign Facebook page trumpeted his victory, posting: “Election results Mayor Restaino wins.”
Restaino’s campaign posted election results that showed the mayor comfortably winning with 1,301 votes, followed by Choolokian with 959 votes and Nix with 578 votes.
By 11 p.m., board of elections officials said that a “computer firewall” was blocking them from uploading the Falls vote totals. Some 12 minutes later, the board succeeded in completing its reporting for all the city districts.
The unofficial totals, subject to certification, showed Restaino with 1,323 votes or 45.25% of the 2,924 votes cast by Democrats citywide. Choolokian finished second with 1,009 votes or 34.51% while Nix garnered 581 votes or 19.87% of all the ballots cast.
The mayor, who will face Republican candidate Carl Cain in November thanked voters for their support.
“Thank you to the voters. I’m looking forward to the rest of the race,” Restaino said. “We’ll keep the same focus that we’ve had.”
Nix, who ran a spirited, outsider campaign, questioned what he described as the “discrepancy” in the way the election results were handled and reported by the board of elections. However, he said he accepted Restaino as the primary winner.
“I’m not a Democrat. I’m not a Republican. I’m a person of the community that’s trying to break the power of the parties and them deciding the direction of where our city is going,” Nix said.
Nix will be on the general election ballot, having secured a line for his We All We Got (WAGA) party. He said he intends to continue to campaign through November because he believes he is the candidate the city needs. He’s hoping that a large number of previously unregistered voters, who signed up just to support his primary campaign, will stay with him to the general election.
“I’m not stopping,” Nix said. “Our campaign is for the people to unite the people together. It isn’t about the win or the loss. Our campaign starts tomorrow with getting people registered and getting them involved.”
Choolokian could not be reached after the votes were tallied. He did not immediately return calls seeking comment on the election results.