Incumbent Rebecca Seawright was briefly back on the ballot in the 76th New York Assembly District. But the State’s highest court reversed that decision.
By David Stone
UPDATED, MAY 22ND, 2020: In a 5 to 2 decision handed down yesterday afternoon, the Court of Appeals threw out a decision by Supreme Court Judge Carol Edmead.
Judge Edmead accepted Seawright’s argument that a bout with “COVID-like symptoms” prevented her from complying with ballot requirements. Cover sheets were absent from her petitions on the Democratic Party line, and a Certificate of Acceptance was missing from the Working Families Party.
But the Court of Appeals rejected that excuse, citing legislation demanding strict compliance. The Court had, they noted, never varied from that position over decades of reviews.
Get local: The Roosevelt Island News
Big Turnover in Local Representation
With both City Council Member Ben Kallos and Borough President Gale Brewer term limiting out of office, major changes were already in store. But with Seawright off the ballot, State Senator José Serrano may now be the sole surviving politician for a large chunk of the city.
Republican candidate Lou Puliafito successfully appealed Edmead’s ruling and now stands as the only major party candidate on the ballot.
Puliafito is not overconfident, however.
“I have to work hard to win the district’s respect,” he told the Roosevelt Island Daily.
And Seawright is not without resources. Although it’s a long shot, she vowed an independent run.
“We must assure freedom of choice for the voters of the Upper East Side, Yorkville, and Roosevelt Island. We are taking all necessary steps to avail ourselves of our legal right to run for re-election on an independent line,” she said in a statement following Thursday’s ruling.
Governor Andrew Cuomo’s executive order, putting New York on PAUSE, does not currently allow independent candidate signature collections.
Read the Court of Appeals ruling here:Court-of-Appeals-Denies-Seawright-Ballot-Spot
End of Update.
Briefly, Rebecca Seawright Was Back On The Ballot
“The Court is not inclined to invalidate the petitions,” said Supreme Court Judge Carol Edmead. “Seawright’s untimely submissions do not constitute an egregious failure to comply with Election Law requirements,”
Edmead knocked down a unanimous decision by the board of elections.
Lawrence Mandelker, representing Republican Lou Puliafito, said that Edmead “was completely wrong on the law.” He filed an immediate appeal.
But, Seawright said, “It is time to end shameful pandemic politics,” in a strange Trump-like spin on events.
The Signature Problem
As we reported last month, Seawright failed to meet the minimum requirements to qualify for the June primary. The board of elections tossed her petitions for both the Democratic and Working Families primary because of deficiencies.
The errors were not identical. As a Democrat, she failed to include required cover sheets. With the WFP, she skipped a certificate of acceptance.
No other candidate, including Puliafito, made similar mistakes, but the court accepted Seawright’s demands for making hers a special case.
Seawright brushed off the mistakes as “clerical errors,” although the forms are legally mandatory and not new. She filed correctly for multiple prior elections. But in a troubling gesture, Seawright brushed off longstanding rules as trivial.
But what really took the cake was her doing a Trump. Highlighting her refusal to take responsibility, Seawright attacked her opponent instead.
She accused the bipartisan board of “shameful pandemic politics,” yet she was the only actor bringing Covid-19 into the case. Failures she blamed, not on staff miscues, but on a period during which she had “COVID-like symptoms.”
She also noted that Governor Cuomo’s New York PAUSE shortened the season for collecting petition signatures.
But his executive decision did not otherwise change the election laws, and his executive order did not keep anyone else from complying.
Seawright’s Back on The Ballot: Fair or Politics?
“We are appealing,” Puliafito told the Roosevelt Island Daily. “Today’s ruling from Judge Carol Edmead had nothing to do with the law, and everything to do with politics.”
“Just like a politician” he added, “to not take responsibility for their actions and blame someone else.”
Mandelker expects Edmead’s decision to be overturned. The judge seemed to create new legislation to help Seawright, going so far as overturning a unanimous board decision. As evidence, Mandelker noted that Edmead ruled just the opposite in other recent cases.
Throwing Edmead’s ruling out would render Seawright out of options. Another Cuomo order bans collecting independent petitions, shutting down that avenue.
Both candidates now await a decision by the Supreme Court Appellate Division.