Clinton County Republican Chairman Don Lee has filed a lawsuit in state Supreme Court in Saratoga County seeking to have U.S. Rep. Bill Owens, D-Plattsburgh, removed from the Working Families Party ballot line in the November general election.
“Evidence shows that the congressman and staff turned in incomplete and inadequate (nominating) petitions containing 94 signatures,” Lee alleged.
The lawsuit has no bearing on Owens’ ballot status on the Democratic line.
Lee said the Clinton County Republican Committee hired two private investigators that interviewed 25 people who signed Owens’ Working Families Party nominating petition, and 16 of them said that Jacqueline Bellew, a notary public who circulated the petition, did not administer an oath before they signed the petition.
Lee said there also appears to be incorrect addresses with some signatures, “questionable signatures,” and signatures by some who are not Working Families Party members.
James Hannaway, campaign manager for Owens, said, “We’re confident the Working Families Party’s signatures are valid.”
The lawsuit, scheduled to be heard at 9:15 a.m. May 8, is separate from a challenge to Owens’ Working Families Party petitions that Lee filed with the state Board of Elections.
Lee said he filed the lawsuit because the Board of Elections cannot legally rule on some of his objections.
The requirement to administer an oath is part of notary public law, not election law, said John Conklin, a spokesman for the state Board of Elections.
“If they’re notarizing a signature, they’re required to administer an oath to the person whose signature they are notarizing if they don’t know them,” he said.
Two candidates are running in a June 26 primary for the Republican nomination to challenge Owens in the new 21st Congressional District.
The candidates are Matt Doheny, an investment fund manager from Watertown, and Kellie Greene, an international business consultant and seminary student from Sackets Harbor.
Doheny already has the Conservative Party and Independence Party nominations, but his Independence Party nominating petitions have been challenged.
The state Board of Elections is scheduled to hear the challenge on Wednesday, Conklin said.
The Green Party candidate is Donald Hassig, a political activist from St. Lawrence County.
The new 21st District includes Warren, Washington and northern Saratoga counties, and all or parts of nine other counties, stretching from Lake Champlain to Lake Ontario.