Democratic Chair Asks Rick Hulse To Withdraw Lawsuit
By JIM KEVLIN • for allotsego.com
COOPERSTOWN – Since he has Cerebral Palsy, Patrick Dewey is unable to sign his name: Instead, he uses a rubber stamp with his “mark” above it.
That’s not good enough for the county Republican Committee, according to Democratic Committee chair Richard Abbate of Cooperstown.
In a lawsuit challenging the petitions of Democratic candidate Andrew Marietta, who is running against Republican county Rep. Rick Hulse for the Cooperstown-Town of Otsego seat, the GOP is seeking to knock off Patrick’s signature.
“Rick knows him (Patrick) personally,” said Abbate, and he called for Hulse to withdraw the challenge to Marietta’s petitions. Hulse didn’t immediately return a call, but his response will be added to this post when received.
Dewey received a standing ovation at CCS’ commencement Sunday, June 28, when he graduated with honors. He plans to attend Edinboro University in Pennsylvania and pursue a career in radio.
“It’s things like this that gives the political process a bad reputation and makes people not want to get involved,” said Abbate.
“He’s only half right,” responded GOP county chair Vince Casale, also of Cooperstown. “He’s half right, because people are upset with politicians who skirt the law … There are thousands of candidates across the state that had to follow the same set of rules, and nobody is exempt from that.”
Election law specifically exempts rubber stamps from being used on petitions, said, adding, “The problem wasn’t the use of the stamp. t’s that (the petition) wasn’t properly witnessed. The petitions are an overall mess.”
Abbate, who is also the Democratic election commissioner, reviews the petitions with his Republican counterpart, Sheila Ross of Fly Creek. When Patrick’s signature was questioned, she voted to remove it; Abbate voted to keep it.
When the Republican and Democratic commissioners are split, the signature remains on the petition.
However, a legal challenge to all of Marietta’s petitions was then brought, “under the cloak of darkness,” Abbate said – not by the Republican committee but by Casale’s wife, Lynne. Casale denied any subterfuge, noting the Lynne is also secretary of the county GOP committee.
The legal challenge will be argued Thursday, Aug. 13, before state Supreme Court Kevin Dowd in Chenango County. While Dowd is a Republican, “I hear he’s fair and honest,” said Abbate. “If so, he will rule on our side.” If not, Democrats will challenge the decision, he said.
One of the key petitions being challenged was circulated by Christina Noto, the CCS honor student and girls’ basketball standout.
At the bottom of the petition, Christina wrote over the number “13” — the number of signatures on the petition — to enhance it, and noted the change with a yellow marker, Abbate said. He said that is sufficient, but that the challenge said the change had to be initialed by Ms. Noto.
Abbate said Marietta needed 36 signatures to get on the Nov. 3 District 8 ballot as a Democrat, and he had 81.
Casale said Abbate and Ross agreed to remove 30 signatures, bringing the valid signatures down to 51. The Noto petition, if thrown out, could bring the Republicans within striking distance of the 36.
For his part, Abbate decried what he described as a routine Republican tactic of GOP operatives scrutinizing every signature on Democratic petitions at the county Board of Elections in the Meadows office building, looking for technicalities to challenge Democratic candidacies.
While he acknowledge it is a “heavy lift,” he expressed confidence that, by holding county Rep. Ed Lentz’s seat, beating county Reps. Jim Powers in Butternuts and Keith McCarty in Richfield-Springfield, and reclaiming Oneonta districts, Democrats can gain control of the county board this fall.