Tonawanda News

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October 3, 2013

Election lawsuit lingers

Tonawanda News — Bill Conrad, candidate for the Erie County Legislature, lashed out against an ongoing lawsuit filed by two Republicans, including his opponent, incumbent Kevin Hardwick. 

The issue stems from an apparent error at the U.S. Post Office on July 15, the deadline for filing a permission by the party to allow Conrad to run as a Democrat even though he’s a registered independent. The paperwork can either be filed in person at the Erie County Board of Elections or postmarked by July 15, election law stipulates.

Jeff Sheridan, executive director of the Erie County Democratic Committee, insists the paperwork for Conrad and several other endorsed Democratic candidates was filed on time, but due to an oversight by a post office employee, the ballots were dated a day late. So far two courts have agreed with that viewpoint, but Hardwick and his co-plaintiff Republican Legislator Edward Rath, are appealing two lower court decisions. 

To complicate matters, a total of 17 candidates at varying levels of governance could be affected by the lawsuit because they were endorsed by the Democrats but are not registered with the party. That includes Conrad, a teacher at Kenmore West High School who is entering the political arena for the first time. 

“Enough is enough,” Conrad said during a recent interview. “Let’s just drop this and go on with the elections. It’s part of the democratic process.”

But Hardwick, a political science professor at Canisius College whose district includes the City of Tonawanda and Grand Island, said he is pressing on with litigation, while asserting that the intent of the law should be left to a judge. 

“I disagree with the decision. The statute is quite clear,” he said. “It doesn’t talk about intent of the postmark, it specifically talks about a postmark. Whether it’s filing your income tax on April 15 or turning in a term paper for one of my classes, deadlines are deadlines. He did not meet them so we challenged it.” 

Alan Getter, assistant superintendent for the North Tonawanda School District and another first-time candidate, is seeking to unseat Rath in his Amherst district. 

The issue has been heard by the New York State Supreme Court and an appeals court in Rochester. The state’s top court has not said whether it will take up the case.

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