By Patrick Donachie
As the Democratic primary for New York’s 3rd Congressional District unfolded over the past months and concluded with a victory for former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi, a Republican primary fight has been brewing, as well. The contest is currently playing out in state court.
Former fraud investigator and financial analyst Philip ‘Flip’ Pidot contends that state Sen. Jack Martins (R-Mineola), the other candidate in the fight to represent Republicans in the general election to succeed outgoing U.
S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Melville), is trying to forestall a Republican primary fight and disenfranchising Republican voters. The district covers parts of northeast Queens, Nassau and Suffolk.
“The primary reason I got in this was to fight against the corruption and unaccountability of political insiders and elected officials. It’s been such an ironic twist that the other side has made my point better than I ever could,” Pidot said in a telephone interview. “It’s such a more extreme manifestation of this kind of insider deal-making and non-responsible policy making.”
Martins originally raised objections about the signatures Pidot had collected to qualify for a potential June primary. According to a brief filed by Pidot with the state’s Appellate Court, Pidot filed 2,191 signatures, more than the 1,500 needed for the ballot, but Martins’ campaign challenged some signatures as invalid in early May. The State Supreme Court in Nassau County ruled that Pidot did not have enough signatures May 11, but on June 17 the state Appellate Division overturned the ruling, sending the decision back to the lower court.
A June 24 decision determined that Pidot did indeed have enough signatures to qualify, but the court also said it would be impossible to organize a Republican primary for Pidot and Martins for June 28, which was the scheduled primary day through the city. Pidot, who filed a suit in federal court demanding that a primary date be set but later withdrew it, maintains there is sufficient time to hold a Republican primary before the general election in November, Oral arguments were scheduled in state Appellate Court in the coming week.
The Martins campaign asserted that the delay in the state court decision stemmed from Pidot’s failing to file timely court motions, which Pidot disputes.
O’Brien Murray, a senior advisor of Martins, said Pidot and his campaign were using delaying tactics.
“They could have dealt with this earlier, but chose not to, but now they’re scrambling around wasting the court’s time and taxpayers’ money in an effort to solely benefit (Pidot), ”Murray said.. “He has to learn to play by the rules.”
Martins has received considerable backing from Republican organizations, including the Nassau County GOP, Suffolk Republicans, Queens Republicans and the Conservative Party of New York State. Pidot said he would like to spend more time campaigning than engaging in legal squabbles, but he said he believed it was important to continue fighting for what he argued were the rights of Republican primary voters in the district.
“It’s simultaneously frustrating and invigorating, because it reminds me why we got into this race,” he said. “We’re showing the machine is not invincible and we’re fighting for things that seem pretty basic.”
Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdona