MARIETTA VS. WALKER ARGUED
By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.allotsego.com
COOPERSTOWN – State Supreme Court Judge Eugene D. Faughnan said he expects to make a decision by Monday on the dispute over the “I Love Otsego” ballot line between county Rep. Andrew Marietta, D-Cooperstown/Town of Otsego, and his Republican challenger Tim Walker.
But at today’s hearing at the state Supreme Court here, he closely questioned Marietta’s lawyer, Dennis Laughlin, on his brief arguing Marietta’s case, and stated at one point, “The case law seems to say, first-in counts.”
It also surfaced that Walker, on the first day independent petitions were accepted at the county Board of Elections, Tuesday, Aug. 15, submitted his application for the “I Love Otsego” ballot line at 9:01 a.m.
So when Marietta arrived with his petitions that afternoon, “I Love Otsego,” which he had run on two years ago and used to brand his Facebook page and web site, had already been claimed by his opponent. He hired Laughlin to get it back.
Laughlin argued today that Walker’s move “interfered in the franchise of voting.” In 2015, 32 people voted for Marietta on that line; if they mistakenly voted for Walker this time, the 64-vote swing might be sufficient to shift the outcome in the upcoming Nov. 7 county board election.
Faughan asked Laughlin if he thought voters are “too dumb to figure out who they are voting for.”
If he were to rule for Marietta, where would this end, the judge continued. Would a future challenger not be able to us the “I Like Otsego” line? Or might he/she be barred from using “I”?
Laughlin restated his position: “Allowing the first petition potentially impacts the election and disenfranchises (citizens) from the use of their votes.”
Arguing for Walker, attorney Martin Tillipaugh stated, “It is our position there is no right to that name … If it’s not fair, then the law is not fair.”
Recalling his 27 years as Owego village attorney, he reported the village charter there requires elections to be non-partisan, so candidates make up names at the start of the election season, many of which echo names used in the past.
“The argument of prior year use doesn’t apply,” he continued. “I found no precedent.”
Binghamton-based Judge Faughnan filled in on this case because locally based judges recused themselves.
Attending today’s hearing was candidate Marietta, GOP County Chair Vince Casale, and the two election commissioners, Republican Lori Lehenbauer and Democrat Mike Henrici.