The Albany County Board of Elections has tossed out a Working Families Party objection against Supervisor Jack Cunningham’s opportunity to ballot for the line.
Independence Party member Councilman Sam Messina is challenging Cunningham on the Republican, Conservative and Working Families Party lines and is facing off with him in an Independence Party primary in September.
As it stands now, Cunningham can now mount a write-in campaign for the Working Families line in September with his opportunity to ballot petition signed by five party members.
There are currently 29 or so members of the party residing in Bethlehem and only two signatures were needed on an opportunity to ballot petition.
Messina received the endorsement of the Working Families Party earlier this year and gathered 16 signatures for the line.
Republican Commissioner John Graziano told The Spotlight about the objection ruling, which was made on three specific grounds, including not having matching dates for the witness and signers and not administering oaths.
It was not upheld because the objector did not list his address on the general objection, Graziano said.
Messina spoke out about the Working Families Party objection, and said Albany County Board of Elections Democratic Commissioner Matthew Clyne, who is also Bethlehem’s Democratic Chairman and the county Democratic vice chair, was playing `politics as usual.`
`The depths to which Jack Cunningham and Matt Clyne will stoop to maintain their choke hold on our town government have reached a new low,` he said. `After the Working Families Party caught Jack Cunningham failing to follow election law, they filed a legitimate challenge with the Board of Elections, of which Matt Clyne is the Democrat appointed co-commissioner.`
Messina also made an appeal directly to voters.
`The people of Bethlehem deserve better than individuals who can’t see beyond their political ties and personal ambitions,` he said. `I hope all friends of good government remember the actions of Democratic Chairman Clyne and Vice Chairman Cunningham come Election Day.`
Cunningham did not specifically respond to Messina’s comments, stating, `I look forward to the election and look forward to meeting residents to talk about my re-election campaign.`
Clyne said the Working Families Party objection was fatally flawed because basic information was not included.
`The objection didn’t include an address, it’s pretty simple,` Clyne said. `It’s kind of funny for [Messina] to make these comments when he’s the one who can’t put politics aside in this race.`
There was also a general objection filed on July 20 by an Independence Party member against the designating petitions of Cunningham, Kyle Kotary, Mark Jordan, and Gregg Sagendorph for the line.
There were 36 specific objections filed by the same member on Monday, July 27, but Graziano said its fate is out of the board of elections’ hands. The objections listed attorney James E. Walsh as the objector’s representative.
`It was already in court when we got it, so we are going to leave it there,` Graziano said of the decision to be made on the Independence Party objections.
Walsh told The Spotlight that a judge was assigned to the case and he had a conference on the matter on Monday, Aug. 3, and is scheduled to go back to court on Thursday, Aug. 6, at 9:30 a.m. for a possible ruling.
Until then, he said he and his client are in `a holding pattern.`
`We filed a lawsuit because I think there’s a problem with the petitions filed with the board of elections,` Walsh said. `They had people collecting [signatures] as a notary and no oaths were administered.`
Walsh claimed the state’s election laws were broken in collecting Independence Party signatures for Cunningham’s slate.
`There are certain procedures involved in collecting signatures according to New York State Election Law and my lawsuit is making the allegation that they were not followed,` he said. `The judge is going to want to know about what happened.`
Walsh added the lawsuit was to `ensure the integrity of the process.`
Clyne said if the judge dismisses the lawsuit the original Independence party objection would go back to the county board of elections.
Working Families Party of the Capital District spokeswoman Karen Scharff told The Spotlight last week that her party thought Messina was the better candidate and that they never gave Cunningham their support partly because he never interviewed for it.
She said Cunningham was disrespectful to the party and was trying to use the Working Families Party for another ballot line, rather than because he believed its political philosophy.
Scharff said the same of the Democrats’ regard for the county’s Independence Party.
`The Democrats obviously have some sort of deal with the Independence Party in the town of Bethlehem,` said Scharff.
However, the Working Families Party has also endorsed Bethlehem Independence Party Chairman Mark Jordan for Town Board along with Messina for supervisor. Messina carried the petitions for both of them, saying Jordan `didn’t collect a single signature.`
Jordan, on the other hand, voted along with the rest of the Albany County Independence Party executive committee, including Assemblyman Tim Gordon and Albany County Chairman Paul Caputo, to unanimously endorse Cunningham over their own party member for supervisor.
Jordan said he understands Scharff’s position, but objected to her characterization of his own party.
`There’s no deal in the Town Board races,` he said. `The Republicans never came to the Independence Party to interview, we only had Democrats and our own members to choose from.`
Republican Highway Superintendent Gregg Sagendorph did interview and receive the Independence Party endorsement for his re-election bid, which he has in the past, but is running unopposed.
For updates on the Thursday, Aug. 6, ruling on the Independence Party petition objection, visit www.spotlightnews.com.