A state Supreme Court judge has rejected an effort to have Jeff Gildersleeve thrown off the ballot for Saratoga County sheriff in a Sept. 10 primary.
Judge Ann C. Crowell ruled Thursday that Gildersleeve’s nominating petitions were valid, rejecting the contentions in a lawsuit filed by Michael Zurlo, the Republican Party-endorsed candidate.
Zurlo and Pam Butler, a resident of Stillwater, sued to have Gildersleeve removed from the Sept. 10 ballot, alleging his nominating petitions were defective.
“The petitioners have failed to meet their burden to establish the candidate intended to deceive potential voters ... or that voters were confused by the candidate’s identity,” Crowell wrote.
James Walsh of Schenectady, the lawyer who represented Zurlo, said he’s reviewing the decision with Zurlo before deciding whether to appeal.
“We said from the beginning there is a real question of law that should be decided by a judge,” Walsh said.
The lawsuit alleged that people signing Gildersleeve nominating petitions could have been confused because Gildersleeve and a 19-year-old son, also named Richard J. Gildersleeve, live at the same Ballston Lake address. The challenger also said people could be confused because the candidate is variously known as R. Jeff Gildersleeve and R.J. Gildersleeve.
“The record and testimony do not demonstrate potential voters would be confused between father and son as to who was running for the office of sheriff,” Crowell wrote.
The county Board of Elections had rejected Zurlo’s objections and was also named in the lawsuit.
“I’m thrilled that the judge sided with me,” Gildersleeve said. “This was clearly a straight-up attempt to keep Republican voters from deciding who they want for sheriff.”
Both Zurlo and Gildersleeve want to replace Sheriff James D. Bowen, a Republican who is retiring after 41 years in office.
At a hearing before Crowell on Wednesday, three witnesses called by Zurlo’s attorney testified they were either confused about what they were signing when they signed Gildersleeve petitions or thought Gildersleeve was the endorsed Republican candidate for sheriff.
Lawyers for Gildersleeve and the Board of Elections said there was no intent to deceive voters.
Gildersleeve, a former state police investigator, is challenging Zurlo, a retired sheriff’s investigator who is the candidate endorsed by the Saratoga County Republican Committee.
Gildersleeve submitted nearly 2,000 signatures on nominating petitions to force a primary, well more than the minimum of 1,000.
Gildersleeve was represented by former U.S. Rep. John Sweeney.