Sep 02, 2009 Ami Olson Uncategorized
Two weeks before the Republican primary,and the 2009 election in the town of Camillus is already shaping up to be unusually heated, with controversy surrounding the Camillus Conservative Committee’s candidate endorsements.
Five objections have been filed with the Onondaga County Board of Elections, contesting the at-large voting method the Conservatives used to select candidates.
Helen Kiggins, Republican commissioner of elections, said the county had determined the Conservative certification of nomination was valid. If objectors wanted to pursue their complaints they had until the end of the day Monday to file a lawsuit and take the issue to the Supreme Court.
The objections were filed by incumbent Councilors Roger Pisarek, Kathy MacRae, David Callahan, whom objected to the endorsements of their opponents, and by residents Yolanda Fero and Barbara Donovan.
A change of plans
Because the town of Camillus is divided into wards, the objectors argue only those who live within the ward the candidate would represent should have been allowed to vote, rather than the entire group present voting on all candidates for all wards.
Callahan said he and the other candidates were told that voting would be conducted by ward, and that it appeared the caucus had been organized as if the voting would be by ward.
Kiggins said she received a phone call during the caucus from Camillus Conservative Committee Chair Robert Grahm and Onondaga County Conservative Party Chair Austin Olmsted, who asked if voting should be at-large or by ward.
She said it was her and Democratic Election Commissioner Edward Ryan’s opinion that voting should be by ward, and she told Grahm and Olmsted as much.
But after the candidates spoke to the caucus, a vote was held and the group decided to vote at-large, as it has in the past, and that’s where the conflict began.
‘Every endorsment counts’
“Just because you always do something the wrong way, doesn’t mean it’s right,” said John Petosa, chair of the Camillus Republican Party.
Voting in towns structured by wards is dictated by a section of state election law, and the objectors allege that the Conservatives misinterpreted the law.
But, as Conservative Mike Smithson pointed out, when the Republican candidates have enjoyed Conservative backing the past this complaint was never raised.
“I’m also curious that the Republicans can be happy with three of the votes reached by an at-large vote, but three have caused a complaint,” Smithson said.
Petosa explained that individuals, not the party, filed the objections.
Republican David Cooke, who did win the Conservative endorsement, said he thought it seemed unfair to apparently change the rules at the last minute, but that he was personally not affected by it, and therefore did not file an objection.
The bottom line is, with two ward primaries in September and a Democratic line that is almost full for the general election, Camillus voters will have difficult decisions ahead of them, and the candidates know it.
“We’re in a very tough position, this is going to be a tough election, and every endorsment counts,” Petosa said.
A learning experience
Though he filed an objection, as of Friday Callahan said he probably wouldn’t pursue a lawsuit.
“There’s only so far you can go with it,” Callahan said. “I’m disappointed, because I plan on beating him [Fittipaldi] in the primary, but he still has a line to run on in the general election.”
The Conservatives aren’t letting the objections rattle them, though.
“If the nominations are thrown out we have until Sept. 22, that’s the last day we can file candidates,” Grahm said. “I can see how we can redo this if we need to, if we’re told to. But the vote was strongly in favor of doing it that way.”
Smithson said, regardless of the outcome, his first foray into local politics was proving very interesting.
“I’m just interested to see if this will be ruled on by a state supreme court judge, how it might change how we do things in the future,” Smithson said.
And, if nothing else, the controversy offers a little publicity for the somewhat ignored third party, Smithson added.