By Mark Hallum
There will be a Republican primary in the race to choose a nominee for the seat that will be vacated by U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Melville), whose district covers parts of eastern Queens.
A federal court decided Wednesday that state Sen. Jack Martins (R-Mineola) will face Philip “Flip” Pidot in a Republican primary to be held Oct. 6. The winner of the primary will go up against former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi, the Democratic nominee.
Several state and federal court proceedings were held as Pidot pushed for a slot in the Republican primary, which originally would have been held on June 28, the same day as the Democratic primary. Though a state court eventually determined Pidot had enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot, the court ruled that there was not enough time before the June 28 date to get him on the ballot. Since then, Pidot has petitioned courts to set a new date.
A state ruling late last month determined that it was the responsibility of a federal court to set a new primary date. In an interview, Pidot said he was expecting Wednesday’s positive federal ruling , noting that there were two valid candidates and no primary plans.
“Jack Martins and the political machine literally tried to steal an election from voters and it took a federal court to step in and stop it,” Pidot said in a statement about the decision. “What should frighten voters most is the number of people throughout this four-month legal process that simply shrugged about it, saying rhetorically, ‘What do you expect on Long Island?’”
O’Brien Murray, a spokesman for the Martins campaign, contended that the federal court’s decision to set a new primary datecould have troubling consequences when it comes to the general election.
“The judge’s decision, while I respect the issue, is a great error for the issue of military ballots and absentee ballots for the general election,” he said. “Whatever the court’s decision, we will abide by that decision.”
Pidot said Murray’s concern about these ballotsg was “disingenuous,” saying that the original intent of the Martins campaign was not to have a primary election in the first place.
“Recall the solution they had was to cancel the election outright, which would disenfranchise all military voters,” he said.
The Suozzi campaign submitted petitions, which met the 3,500 minimum on Aug. 1, to add a third line on the ballot titled “Fix Washington.” This is in addition to the Democratic line , which he already qualified for by winning the Democratic primary in June. Martins recently challenged those petition signatures collected by Suozzi on the basis that more than 3,500 of them were “fraudulent” and included individuals who were not registered, lived outside the district or were illegible. .
“This is more of the same Tom Suozzi that voters just can’t trust,” said Murray, Martins’ spokesman. “It’s time for Tom Suozzi to end the charade and admit these independent petitions don’t qualify for the ballot.”
Murray did not respond to inquiry about the possibility of a state Board of Elections hearing on the objections, or the specific number of objections. He claimed Suozzi panicked when the objections were raised and allegedly “ran” to court to have a quick decision made to save his signatures.
“Jack Martins is so worried about his record of raising property taxes, defending Dean Skelos, and voting for Trump, he’s doing everything he can to kick everyone off the ballot so he won’t have to explain himself to voters,” Kim Devlin, a Suozzi campaign consultant, said.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall