Although petitions to appear in the Republican primary for the state’s 20th District congressional seat have already been submitted, a new development has the potential to shake up the field of candidates.
Signatures on the Republican Party petitions of Michael Roque and John Wallace are being challenged by Alexander Sandy Treadwell. Signatures on Roque’s Conservative Party petition are also being questioned.
To secure a spot on the Republican primary ballot, 1,250 signatures are required; 412 are needed for a shot at the Conservative nomination. Only residents of the 20th District who are registered with the party in question are allowed to sign the ballots, and if it is found that the names are not on the voter registration lists (at the same address, as well) then the signatures could be thrown out. They could also be tossed due to errors in the signature date or the misspelling of a name.
`Generally, when we receive a specific objection, our staff will review them and make a report, then schedule a hearing,` said Bob Brehm, a State Board of Elections spokesman.
A board of four commissioners will make the final decision regarding contested signatures.
Roque, a retired Army officer and former member of Delta Force, said that he respects Treadwell’s right to challenge his petitions.
`I personally defend his legal right to do this,` said Roque, `but there’s not a requirement for him to do this; it’s a choice.`
Roque stated that he feels if any of his signatures are indeed without merit ` if someone signed his petition after signing another candidate’s, for example ` they should be thrown out, but the fact a signature could be invalidated due to a typo or the fact a voter did not update their address on the voter roll is evidence of the sometimes `arcane` nature of the process.
`To me, that’s kind of cheesy,` he said. `I don’t want party bosses or lawyers choosing candidates. I want people to have a full choice. Competition energizes the voter base and keeps voters informed.`
John Wallace said that the petition system makes it difficult for smaller candidates to get on the ballot.
`The laws in New York state are arcane and designed to protect the parties,` he said. `It’s how the parties stay in power and how they knock the grassroots out.`
Wallace has little breathing room with his 1,342 Republican signatures. He said that while his campaign made every effort to ensure his signatures were valid, a grassroots campaign can’t catch every detail.
`Some people just put down the wrong address,` said Wallace. `We wouldn’t necessarily catch that stuff right away.`
Peter Constantakes, a spokesman for the Treadwell campaign, said that objections to petitions are not out of the ordinary. There is a similar issue brewing in the 21st Congressional District, for example, where Jim Buhrmaster is challenging Steven Vasquez’s Republican Party petition.
`The main thing is that you need to comply with election law,` said Constantakes. `We feel we owe it to those voters who support Sandy Treadwell that the other candidates meet the criteria they need to. If they don’t, they haven’t proven they have the support required by law to run.`
The Treadwell campaign has also filed lawsuits with the Dutchess County Supreme Court against the three petitions. Since there is a deadline to file such an objection, the lawsuits were filed to keep all avenues open, said Constantakes.
`Since the board has not decided yet, we wanted to preserve our right to challenge in court,` he said.
There is no word on exactly when the Board of Elections will render its decision, though Brehm said such matters are usually examined by or during the week of Aug. 4. Wallace, whose campaign faces the most immediate danger from the objection, said he will accept whatever decision is made.
`If I find out that he’s technically right, I’m not going to fight it, that’s my mistake,` he said, adding, `You cannot confuse the legal system of the United States with what’s right and wrong.`
Treadwell has secured the nomination from the Independence Party over Democratic incumbent Kirsten Gillibrand.“