Republican Common Council candidate Deborah Brown was facing an uphill fight in Ward 9, where Democrats hold a more than two-to-one enrollment advantage. Then the Democrats made the hill even steeper.
Brown, who is making her second run for the downtown council seat, was bumped off the GOP party line after Democratic opponent Mark Halwick Jr. challenged her petitions and a judge threw them out based on an inadvertent and seemingly minor flaw — she neglected to include “2011” in the date on form attesting that she had witnessed the petition’s signing.
The issue arose last month after the deadline for filing nominating petitions. To earn a place on the ballot, candidates must secure signatures from 5 percent of enrolled party members in the election district. In Ward 9, where there are 253 registered Republicans, Brown easily met the quota by the July 14 filing deadline. But Halwick, a Kingston Democratic Committee member who has carried petitions for candidates since 2003, noticed a flaw. The witness affidavit included with the petition forms read “6/30” with no indication of the year. Halwick immediately challenged the petitions. County Election Commissioners Victor Work and Thomas Turco issued a split decision on the issue with the Republican Turco claiming the petitions were valid while Democratic Commissioner Work contended that the omitted date constituted a fatal flaw.
The split vote sent the issue to State Supreme Court, where Andrew Zweben, a politically active attorney who serves as unofficial house counsel to Kingston’s Democratic Committee, argued against Brown’s right to appear on the Republican Party Line. Judge James Gilpatric agreed and ruled the petitions invalid.
Zweben conceded that there were no hints of fraud in the petitions, but added that there was no doubt that the legal definition of “date” must include the year.