By Connor Beach
First-time Democratic challenger Michael Marcantonio lost a legal battle Tuesday to stay in the running for the 12th New York State Assembly seat.
State Supreme Court Justice Richard Horowitz, a Democrat, handed down the original decision on Friday after supporters of veteran New York State Assemblyman Andrew Raia (R-Northport) challenged Marcantonio’s residency in the district, which runs from Northport in the north to Baywood in the south.
Horowitz agreed with the suit’s claim that Marcantonio, who claimed to live at his parents’ Northport home, failed to meet the five-year state residency requirement to run for office because he registered to vote in Durham, North Carolina while attending law school at Duke University, where he graduated in 2015.
A State Supreme Court Appellate Division Justice upheld Horowitz’s decision to disqualify Marcantonio as a candidate on Tuesday in Brooklyn.
State law requires that a candidate be a resident of the state for five years and a resident of the assembly district for 12 months immediately preceding the election.
Marcantonio, 31, an attorney who took a leave from Manhattan-based Kirkland & Ellis to run for office, said that even while attending Duke Law School he continued to live in Northport for half the year, and that he decided to register to vote in North Carolina in an effort of fight “Republican voter suppression tactics” in the region.
Raia’s supporters withdrew a previous claim that Marcantonio had not lived in the 12th district for at least a year before the election.
Raia said he felt there was strong case law to support Horowitz’s decision to remove Marcantonio from the ballot.
“The Court of Appeals is quite clear on this,” Raia said. “It’s as simple as you are a resident where you register to vote.”
Marcantonio said he felt the decision punished him for exercising his constitutional right to vote while in college.
“It’s completely wrong and unfair,” Marcantonio said. “Our election laws are structured in such a way as to discourage participation in politics, not to encourage us.”
Marcantonio, who argued that he has always been a resident of Northport, said that the ruling is “going to have a chilling impact on youth involvement on Long Island.”
“The laws, politics and policies on Long Island are completely unamenable to young people, and when someone tries to fight for the people and change the politics they run to a judge to kick me off the ballot,” Marcantonio said.
Raia pointed out that there is a clear way for New Yorkers to exercise their right to vote, while still maintaining their residency and connection to the community.
“I would encourage students to do what I did in college… vote absentee ballot,” Raia said. “This way you have a say in the local issues that matter to the people of the 12th assembly district.”
As part of his initial decision issued on Friday, Horowitz also determined that Marcantonio’s nominating petitions were invalid. Horowitz revised his decision on Monday to accept the petitions after Lawrence Silverman, Marcantonio’s attorney, filed an objection.
Horowitz’s decision to allow the petitions, which was not addressed in the Appellate Division decision, means that a democratic “committee on vacancy” can choose a substitute candidate to run in Marcantonio’s place.
Huntington Democratic Committee chair Mary Collins said she was unsure who was next in line to replace Marcantonio on the ballot.
“We weren’t expecting this,” Collins said. “We’ll have to play it by ear.”
The committee on vacancy usually has between a week and 10 days following the appeal to nominate a new candidate.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Marcantonio said he had not yet decided if he was going to appeal the decision to the State Court of Appeals.