Saratoga County

Effort aims to force Sundwall off ballot

Libertarian Eric Sundwall faces dual challenges to his candidacy for the March 31 special congressio

Libertarian Eric Sundwall faces dual challenges to his candidacy for the March 31 special congressional election.

This week, opponents filed a motion in court and objections with the state Board of Elections to have him removed from the ballot.

Patricia Killian of Dutchess County, Donald Neddo of Waterford and Laurie Kelly Sickles of Ballston Spa on Monday filed an order to show cause with the state Supreme Court in Poughkeepsie.

Neddo and Sickles, both voters in the district, then filed line-by-line objections with the state Board of Elections on Tuesday to 6,362 of the estimated 6,717 signatures Sundwall obtained to get on the ballot.

Candidates who are not members of one of the two biggest parties are required by state law to secure 3,500 signatures of registered district voters to appear on the ballot for a congressional race.

But John Ciampoli, an Albany attorney representing Killian, Neddo and Sickles, said some of the signatures used wrong addresses, other signers live outside the district and some witness statements were done incorrectly.

For example, he said Sundwall submitted some petitions where signers were Albany residents.

“I would have to think that if you’re running for Congress, you know that the city of Albany isn’t in the 20th Congressional District,” he said.

Sundwall defended his petitions, saying that while there may be some errors, he believes that he still has enough valid signatures to remain on the ballot.

“This is more of a harassing tactic,” he said.

Sundwall, an information technology consultant from Niverville and the chairman of the state Libertarian Party, is seeking the congressional seat along with Republican James Tedisco and Democrat Scott Murphy.

It’s common for people who seek to have someone removed from the ballot to use both the Board of Elections and the court system to try to achieve that, said Bob Brehm, spokesman for the state board.

Ciampoli noted that if the Board of Elections were to rule that the signatures were valid and his clients had not filed a complaint in court, there would be no time to do so before the election.

A March 25 hearing in Poughkeepsie has been scheduled for Judge James Brands to hear the court issue.

The objections listed in the court filing are all the “boilerplate” arguments allowable under state election law and will be honed later, Ciampoli said.

Neddo and Sickles filed objections jointly Tuesday afternoon to the state Board of Elections, Brehm said.

“We will assign staff to review the objections,” he said. There is no deadline for the board to decide on the objections, and Brehm said it will depend on how much time is needed to review line-by-line objections to the signatures.

The board will hold its own hearing on the objections, and then the board’s commissioners will meet to make a final ruling, Brehm said. A meeting of the commissioners has tentatively been scheduled for March 25.

They may either validate, invalidate or deadlock on the objections. A deadlock validates the petitions, Ciampoli said.

Sundwall said he is prepared to fight the legal challenges this time.

In 2006, lawyers for GOP incumbent Rep. John Sweeney were successful in keeping Sundwall off the ballot when he ran against Sweeney and Kirsten Gillibrand.

“We went into this with a lot greater knowledge of the petitioning process, a lot more legal framework,” Sundwall said Tuesday by phone. “We have every confidence that we’re going to survive this.”

If he does survive, Sundwall could well make a difference in the race, which according to a Siena Research Institute poll released last week is very close.

That poll showed Tedisco just 4 percentage points ahead of Murphy, with Sundwall carrying 1 percent of voters surveyed.

“We think this is a tactic to get our campaign off-kilter,” Sundwall said of the objections.

The people objecting to Sundwall’s petitions also make a case that he may have confused voters by using a Statue of Liberty logo on his petitions.

The motion contends that the Libertarian logo of the statue’s face and pointed crown is similar to the Conservative Party’s logo, which shows the statue’s torch.

“This is likely to cause confusion among the electorate,” the court motion states.

Killian, one of the petitioners on the court case, is the chairwoman of the Dutchess County Conservative Committee.

Sundwall said the logo argument is not new to the Libertarian Party.

“We’ve gone through this with these guys in the past, and we’ve won every time,” he said. “We’ve had our logo on our petitions since either the early ’70s or the late ’80s.”

Sundwall also is trying to get included in a candidate roundtable scheduled Thursday and sponsored by television station WMHT and the Times Union, as well as a debate Tuesday sponsored by WNYT and the Post-Star. He will face both Murphy and Tedisco in a debate March 26 sponsored by talk radio station WROW.

Categories: Schenectady County

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