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Hilltowns Archives The Altamont Enterprise, October 30, 2008
Walter’s petition for Democratic line twice-denied
By Zach Simeone
WESTERLO Susan Walter’s hopes of running for Westerlo Town Board on the Democratic line have officially been denied. Judge Joseph Teresi of the New York State Supreme Court dismissed her petition twice this week for failure to submit a certificate of acceptance, and commencing her petition in an untimely fashion.
Democrats outnumber Republicans by nearly 3 to 1 in Westerlo, and have had a tight hold on the government for decades. This fall, however, the Republicans formed a committee to back a challenger to the Democrats.
On Aug. 20, Walter was nominated by the town’s Democratic Party to run to keep her seat; she was appointed to her position in April. On Aug. 26, a certificate of nomination was filed with the Albany County Board of Elections.
But Walter is not enrolled as a Democrat; she has been a Republican for most of her life. Between being appointed by the Democratic town board in April, and hoping Hillary Clinton would end up on the presidential ticket, Walter figured it would be a good idea to switch parties, she said.
She filed paperwork for becoming a Democrat, but will still be enrolled as a Republican for the Nov. 4 election.
When a candidate like Walter is nominated by a party she is not enrolled in, that candidate is required by law to file a certificate of acceptance for her nomination. The last date to file a certificate of acceptance was Sept. 19, and Walter never filed.
When the Albany County Board of Elections met on Sept. 26, the Republican elections commissioner John Graziano found Walter’s certificate of nomination to be “null and void,” since the Election Law requires a certificate of acceptance.
Matthew Clyne, the Democratic commissioner, agreed with Graziano’s citing of the law, but said that Walter’s nomination should stand, since no one had filed a complaint in regards to her failure to file a certificate of acceptance.
Last Tuesday, Oct. 21, the petitioner and respondent were scheduled to appear at the Supreme Court, the lowest level in the state’s three-tiered system, to make their cases before Judge Teresi. But, after receiving the paperwork relating to the case, the judge cancelled their appearances.
“Sometimes, the judge makes those decisions on his own if there’s enough information included in the papers,” said Graziano. “Each of us had attached to the papers our stance on the issue, so the judge made his decision based on the law as it pertains to our positions.”
On Oct. 22, Teresi handed down a decision.
“Because this petition was commenced untimely, it is dismissed,” Teresi wrote.
He also echoed Graziano’s point that Walter had failed to submit a certificate of acceptance in accordance with the Election Law, and the Democrats waited too long to petition the court in regards to that point.
“As petitioner did not commence this proceeding until October 15, 2008, it is time-barred pursuant to [the Election Law].”
Then, on Oct. 23, attorney Justin Corcoran wrote to Teresi on Walter’s behalf, seeking a re-argument of Walter’s case on the basis that, “because no respondent asserted a statute of limitations affirmative defense,” the court cannot apply the statute of limitations to dismiss the petition as untimely.
On Tuesday, Teresi responded, again dismissing Walter’s petition.
“[The] petitioner’s non-filing of a certificate of acceptance, in light of the clear statutory mandate expressed in [the Election Law], cannot be overlooked, and does not form the basis for a finding that the Democratic Party certificate of nomination is valid,” Teresi wrote. “To rule otherwise would, in effect, reward non-filing…Such result is inconsistent with both the purpose and the plain language of the Election Law.”
“I think the judge had to do what he had to do,” Milner said yesterday. “If she had gotten on the ballot, that would have been fine with me too. But, if the judge gave in, then everyone from now on could be late with their paperwork. If people don’t do things right, you got to penalize them for it,” he said. “They were so busy trying to keep me out of the running, they forgot to do their own homework.”
Milner said last week that he was hoping Walter would get on the Democratic line, as to ensure a fair contest. Milner had intended to run as an independent, but his petition was denied by the county’s board of elections after members of the Democratic Party challenged his flawed paperwork. He is now running as a Republican.
“If I win when she’s not on the ballot, people will say it’s because she wasn’t on the ballot,” Milner said. “That’s like what the Democrats did. They wanted me off the ballot because they saw me as a threat.”
Walter, though, remains confident. Her name will appear on the ballot, on the Conservative line.
“It hasn’t dampened my spirits at all,” Walter said on Tuesday. “I’m just going to stick to running on the conservative line. I’m going to continue going door to door, though I don’t have much time left. But I’ll be out there Saturday and Sunday.”
She said that she’s met a lot of people, and has been getting “good vibrations” from them.
“This is just a glitch, one of those things that happen occasionally,” Walter said. “I’m hoping for the best, and I’m still anxiously waiting for next Tuesday to see what happens.”
Full coverage of the ballot battle can be found at www.altamontenterprise.com, in the archives for Oct. 16, 2008, and Sept. 4, 2008.
Profiles of the candidates can be found in the archives for Oct. 16, 2008.