By Jano Tantongco
In a move that has changed the dynamic of the race for outgoing Rep. Steve Israel’s (D-Huntington) seat in the 3rd Congressional District, a federal judge in Syracuse has ruled that a Republican primary must go forward on Oct. 6 to allow contender Philip Pidot to run against State Senator Jack Martins (R-Old Westbury).
However, Martins’ team challenged the ruling on Friday. First, they appealed to Judge Frederick Scullin to change the date of the general election from Nov. 8 to Dec. 6. Second, as an alternative, they requested Scullin to withdraw the order for the primary.
The next court proceeding is scheduled for Aug. 30, with a ruling expected to come down a few days after, according to William O’Reilly, a spokesman for Pidot.
Pidot is a former fraud investigator from Glen Cove. Among his key platform points, he said he would pledge to impose a term limit on himself, and would also seek to do so for fellow legislators.
“We’re a little dumbstruck at how hostile he is to the democratic process, but it’s par for the course from what we’ve seen in the last few months,” Pidot said in a Friday interview. “All we want is for the voters to have the opportunity to pick the nominee. That doesn’t seem like too much to ask.”
Martins’ camp fired back Monday in a statement that asserts that the Oct. 6 primary date does not allow overseas military personnel adequate time to vote via absentee ballots. Federal law mandates that states send the ballots at least 45 days prior to the general election.
"The reason we're in this position in the first place is because Flip Pidot spent months initiating and withdrawing legal actions and delaying appeals (Pidot waited nearly 30 days to file an appeal) instead of just defending his petitions at the Board of Elections hearing in May,” Martins said in the statement. “Now he says we shouldn't give the military the same ability to vote in the general election as in the primary election? No wonder he's been repeatedly rejected by voters.”
In May, Martins challenged Pidot’s petitions to get on the Republican line and force a primary with Martins on June 28. The New York State Board of Elections ruled that Pidot was short 16 signatures.
In June, however, a state Supreme Court ruled that Pidot did have the required number of signatures. But, by then, it was too late to print ballots for the June 28 primary.
In his return volley, Pidot took the case to the federal level, with U.S. District Court Judge Frederick Scullin ruling in his favor, scheduling the Republican primary for October.
Thomas Suozzi, the Democratic candidate for the seat, weighed in on the situation in a statement issued on Friday.
"It's time for Jack Martins to face voters, stop wasting millions of taxpayer dollars with his petty political games and trying to litigate his way into Congress,” Suozzi said. “This is nothing more than a pathetic attempt to distract voters from his disastrous record of raising property taxes, defending Dean Skelos and supporting Trump."
The Libertarian candidate for the seat, Michael McDermott, said in a statement emailed Sunday that Martins’ team has also challenged his petitions for the Libertarian line.
McDermott said, "I join my fellow opponents in calling for these frivolous lawsuits to be immediately terminated and let us all get back to sharing our views wherever and whenever possible with the voting public and stop the dirty politics Jack Martins likes so much.”