By Patrick Donachie
The race to succeed U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Melville) has taken several twists, including three candidates from different political parties who joined forces on Saturday to criticize Republican state Sen. Jack Martins (D-Mineola) in his attempt to postpone the general election date after a federal court mandated a Republican primary date in October.
The candidates are running to succeed Israel in representing the 3rd Congressional District, which includes parts of Nassau and Suffolk counties, Bay Terrace, Whitestone, Glen Oaks and Floral Park.
Former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi, the Democratic nominee for the seat, held a news conference with Libertarian candidate Michael McDermott and Republican candidate Philip Pidot Sunday at the Greenvale Townhouse Diner in Greenvale, L.I., to speak about Martins. He is petitioning in federal court to move the general election date from Nov. 8 to Dec. 6 in order to accommodate the new primary ordered between him and Pidot Oct. 6.
“Jack Martins has unsuccessfully attempted to eliminate each and every opponent who has filed signatures to qualify for the ballot in the 3rd Congressional District,” Suozzi said. “Jack Martins needs to stop wasting everyone’s time and millions of taxpayer dollars and instead tell us what he is really about.”
The Martins campaign contends that the delay is necessary in order to comply with the federal Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act, which requires that states supply overseas service members with ballots 45 days prior to an election. The Oct. 6 primary would leave 32 days before the general election.
“Nassau residents threw Tom Suozzi out of office because of his history of bad decisions, playing politics with the military’s right to vote is just the latest example that he hasn’t changed,” Martins said in a statement.
The legal maneuvering between Pidot and Martins in an attempt to determine whether a Republican primary should be held has spanned multiple months and state and federal court. Martins initially challenged the validity of many of Pidot’s signatures. The State Supreme Court decided in late June that Pidot qualified for the ballot, but due to the proximity to the June 28 primary date Pidot could not be put on the ballot. Pidot accused Martins of trying to subvert the voting process, while Martins countered that the Pidot campaign had dragged its feet in challenging court decisions.
On Aug. 17, a federal court ruled that a Republican primary would be held Oct. 6, prior to the November general election. Martins’ opponents accused him of trying to avoid an election date that would leave him running on the Republican ticket at the same time as Donald Trump.
“What is Jack Martins so afraid of?” McDermott asked. “It is obvious that cowardly Jack Martins doesn’t want to be on a ballot with Donald Trump, even though one minute he is a strong Trump supporter and the next he is trying to distance himself from Trump.”
Martins contends that the 50 days between the Oct. 6 Republican primary and his proposed Dec. 6 primary will give the New York State Board of Elections ample time to supply service members with ballots.
A spokesman for New York State Board of Elections said it would reserve comment on the situation, due to the pending litigation.
Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdona