(Editor’s note: Updated with Steve Noble comment, the Gallo campaign’s pending court appeal and an accurate number of how many signatures Gallo would need to form his own line for the November ballot.)
For Kingston Mayor Shayne Gallo, the stakes in September’s Democratic Primary contest just got a whole lot higher.
A late filing by the incumbent Democrat means that he will not be on the ballot in Sept. 10’s primaries for the Conservative and Independence Party lines. Gallo had planned to use the third-party lines as a potential fallback position if he lost the Democratic line. Now, his electoral prospects appear to rest entirely with a victory over challenger Steve Noble.
“Short of a court telling us we have to put him on the ballot, he’s in the Democratic primary and that’s it,” said Ulster County Election Commissioner Vic Work on Tuesday. (City Corporation Counsel and staunch Gallo supporter Andrew Zweben, who says he is representing the mayor as Gallo’s private attorney in this matter, said Friday he had filed an appeal of the ruling and expects an answer by the middle of this coming week.)
Gallo’s disqualification stems from a late filing of an acceptance letter necessary to win a spot on the Independence and Conservative party lines. Both parties’ leaders signed off on “Wilson-Pakula” waivers authorizing the Democrat to compete in their primaries. But Gallo missed the deadline for filing his official acceptance by one day. The filing had to be hand delivered to the board or postmarked no later than July 13. Envelopes containing the acceptance form and bearing Zweben’s office’s return address were postmarked July 14. Another mark from an office postage machine, presumably Zweben’s, shows postage paid on the 13th. But Work said that the Albany postmark is the only one that matters.
“A postmark is a postmark,” said Work. “You can’t make it up.”
Gallo’s gaffe leaves Republican challenger Ron Polacco the only name on the ballot for the Conservative and Independence lines. Gallo, meanwhile, faces the very real prospect of going into November a man without a party, or at least party line. The deadline has passed for Gallo to request an “Opportunity to Ballot” — essentially a write-in primary on the Independence and Conservative lines. Work said the only remaining “Opportunity to Ballot” was one initiated by Noble on the Green Party line. But Noble has already been campaigning among Kingston’s 70 Greens. Gallo could also form his own party and get that line on the ballot by gathering 308 signatures (5 percent of those in the city who cast a vote for governor in the last election) on a petition by the Aug. 18 deadline.
The rules are the rules
Jeremy Blaber, who worked on Gallo’s 2011 mayoral campaign and worked in his administration as a parking enforcement officer, said Tuesday he filed the compliant that knocked his former boss off the party lines. (Blaber was fired for allegedly including false information on his job application, but not before he recorded and publicized Gallo in a profanity-laced rant accusing him of drug abuse and other misdeeds.)
“Mayor Gallo and Mr. Zweben kicked me off a competitive civil service list after saying I didn’t follow the rules,” said Blaber of Gallo’s disqualification. “I’m sure Mayor Gallo and Zweben have the same value and respect for the petition process. They taught me the rules are the rules.”
Work, meanwhile, acknowledged Blaber had filed the challenge, but denied that it sparked the disqualification. Work said he and fellow commissioner Tom Turco both noted the late post mark on a routine inspection of all campaign filings.
Two Gallo running mates in the Democratic primary have also missed deadlines for third party lines. Jeanette Provenzano, who’s stepping down from the county legislature to challenge incumbent Alderman-at-Large James Noble, failed to file her acceptance of a Conservative Party Wilson-Pakula on time. She will appear on the Independence Party line. Ward 2 Alderman Brian Seche is facing a primary challenge from Douglas Koop. Seche obtained a Wilson-Pakula for the Conservative line, but did not file an acceptance letter.
Noble said Wednesday he would remain focused on the Democratic primary. He said he had opted not to seek the Conservative line since he did not believe the party’s positions and values were a good fit for a Democrat. The Independence Party, meanwhile, did not extend him the same Wilson-Pakula waiver as they did to Polacco and Gallo. Noble, who has been active on environmental issues in the city, said that he sought the Green Party line because it aligned with his own values.
Where’s the WFP?
Missing from the ballot line maneuvering is the Working Families Party. The left-leaning, pro-labor party provided key logistical support to Gallo in 2011. Then, as now, Gallo was locked in a primary with an opponent who enjoyed the backing of the Kingston Democratic Committee. A corps of WFP volunteers did much of the ground-level campaigning that delivered Gallo a seven-vote victory over Hayes Clement in the Democratic primary.
This time around, though, the WFP is sitting out the mayor’s race. Noble said he had asked about WFP only to be told by party leaders that they would not be backing a candidate.
“They’re staying out of it,” said Noble. “I think they’re not happy with what they’ve seen over the past four years, they’re looking for a change but at the same time it can be very difficult for a party to get involved in these kinds of city issues.”