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Debate talk spices up city Dem contest

An already hotly contested primary for the Democratic nomination for First Ward Common Council continues to heat up.

Last week, Ned Divine, Dunkirk Democratic chair, issued a news release stating incumbent Don Williams Jr., who was not endorsed by the committee, turned down a League of Women Voters sponsored debate with opponent Natalie Luczkowiak. “I was really looking forward to talking about the issues,” Luczkowiak said. “The voters of Dunkirk deserve to hear my opponent defend the city council failures and dysfunction that have permeated all the meetings of the last two years. Away from the city council, my opponent needs to answer why he isn’t supporting city resident Luz Torres to be our next county election commissioner.”

Both Divine and Luczkowiak said League debate coordinator Pat Kirrell informed them of Williams’ declination.

For his part, Williams said he turned down the invitation because of his concerns with the pandemic. “I didn’t think having a live debate was the safest thing for any of the residents or supporters of her or I,” he said, noting Common Council meetings are still being held virtually.

“Even though I’m fully vaccinated it’s not about my health,” he said. “It’s about the health of my supporters, her supporters, city residents and anyone who wants to go.”

Williams has fallen out of favor with both county and city Democrats in the last two years. In 2019, he quietly campaigned against current and fellow party member Dunkirk Mayor Wilfred Rosas and also sided with the campaign of PJ Wendel, a Republican, last November.

“If the voters get to see a debate between endorsed Democratic Candidate Natalie Luczkowiak and Council Member Don Williams, they would see why the members of the Dunkirk City Democratic committee as well as the Working Families Party chose to endorse Natalie Luczkowiak for the position of First Ward Council Member,” Divine stated in the news release.

Luczkowiak, a newcomer to campaigns, has been critical of Williams and the current council for the toxic atmosphere it has created in the last 16 months in the city. “We need to stop the gridlock and chaos that is hampering progress for our city. We need to work together to move the city forward, and that means putting aside personal feelings and working for the residents and in the best interest of our city,” she said in a statement. “Don Williams and his continued vindictive actions must be stopped. Our city’s administration has been decimated by his, and this city Council’s actions. … Let’s remember what he has done to destroy the morale of our employees, eliminate staff, and impede the progress of our city!”

Williams did indicate he is open to debating Luczkowiak on the radio or through the newspaper. “We’re both basically progressive Democrats,” he said. “The only difference is my opponent plans be a yes vote and a bobblehead (for the mayor) … and I plan on asking questions and getting answers before I vote on resolutions.”

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