Parenti faces own campaign test
Assembly candidate’s past filled with familiar faces
BY Jill Terreri
June 18, 2006
Until now, Gary Parenti was used to being in the background of some very powerful people.
His resume reads like a Who’s Who in local, state and even national political circles.
He’s worked for then-State Sen. Byron Brown, former Erie County Democratic Chairman G. Steven Pigeon, former Erie County Executive Dennis Gorski, then-gubernatorial candidate B. Thomas Golisano, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, State Comptroller Alan Hevesi and he helped coordinate activities for former President Bill Clinton’s efforts to solve global issues.
Parenti now finds himself very much in the forefront as he tries to unseat Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte in what is shaping up to be the most competitive political race in Niagara County this year.
Though election results can hinge on fickle things — money, the weather and resulting voter turnout and the electorate’s perception of a candidate — this campaign will test whether all those years behind the scenes have taught Parenti what he needs to do to win.
His political connections are secondary to the work he is doing going door to door and meeting constituents, according to campaign manager Kathryn Lake Mazierski.
For Parenti, the war will be won or lost in the Democratic primary, where he faces DelMonte.
The winner of that contest will go on to November’s general election, where former Niagara Falls High School basketball coach Dan Bazzani is running on the Republican line.
Because the Democratic primary is believed to be the key to winning the race — though no one is counting Bazzani out — Parenti’s campaign literature is filled with photos of him and prominent Democrats, from Clinton to Sens. Charles Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton, former State Sen. Anthony Nanula, Niagara Falls City Councilman Sam Fruscione,
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former State Comptroller Carl McCall and Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. The literature is an appeal to Democratic primary voters, who tend to gravitate to the party’s endorsed candidate — in this case, DelMonte.
Parenti won an early test when he recently was endorsed by Niagara County’s Independence Committee.
The Independence Committee is filled with former Republicans and in the past few years has endorsed many more Republican candidates than Democratic ones.
Party Chairman David MacNeil said the committee held endorsement interviews and was split between Parenti and DelMonte, but Parenti garnered the most votes.
MacNeil said he wasn’t sure whether Parenti’s involvement four years ago with Independent Golisano’s run for governor had anything to do with the way the committee voted.
MacNeil said Bazzani never approached the committee for an endorsement.
Parenti’s work in politics and business has taken him to places near and far, from starting a civic club in Niagara Falls to traveling with Clinton and other world leaders to Ukraine last November, which resulted from his relationship with Golisano and the Rochester billionaire’s relationship with the former president.
Golisano, who founded Paychex, a Rochester company, underwrote the Clinton Global Initiative conference, held in New York City last year.
In addition to Golisano, Parenti also maintains close relationships with Nanula and Pigeon.
Whether his financially well-positioned friends will come through with major donations to Parenti’s cause won’t be known until he files a campaign finance report with the state. The first deadline is July 15.
Parenti was instrumental in bringing Pigeon and Frank Parlato together on the purchase of the AquaFalls building, now known as One Niagara and served as a marketing manager there. Parenti’s family’s business, Parenti Accounting, performed accounting work for Parlato.
Parenti left One Niagara about 18 months ago.
“It was just time to move on,” he said.
When Richard Gephardt made a campaign stop in Niagara Falls on his way to a failed bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2003, it was Parenti that showed him around.
He has worked for Speaker Silver — though in a recent interview took aim at DelMonte for showing allegiance to his former boss.
He traveled to Philadelphia to work on the Philadelphia Education Project, a political organization that supported moderate Republicans in 2004, including Sen. Arlen Specter.
Parenti said he got involved for personal reasons. His dad has Parkinson’s disease and Specter supports stem cell research, like Parenti does.
His political activities stretch even to DelMonte, whom he campaigned for in 2000.
Of his friendly relationship with Roger Trevino and Niagara Falls Redevelopment, Parenti said he has known Trevino for years and as the largest landholder in Niagara Falls, “They do give me a unique perspective.”
He campaigned for Brown during the Buffalo mayor’s run for state Senate and worked on Brown’s staff once he was elected.
Parenti and Pigeon both left Brown’s employment. The pair work for Underberg and Kessler, a Rochester-based law firm. Pigeon’s a lawyer and Parenti works in business development.
Pigeon led Erie County’s Democratic Committee until he was pushed out.
“I am proud of every relationship I have,” Parenti said. “I am proud of my relationship with Steve Pigeon.”
Parenti credits Pigeon with bringing the Buffalo Sabres and Golisano, essentially the financial savior of the team, together.
But the candidate says he’s focused for now on meeting voters and promoting his message of reviving the economy and getting Niagara Falls’ rightful share of resources from Albany.
“We all believe we can do better,” Parenti says. “This community should never be in this situation.”
Contact Jill Terreri
at 282-2311, Ext. 2250.
Contact Frank Parlato Jr.