Republican state Assembly candidate David Catalfamo is ramping up his criticism of incumbent Democrat Carrie Woerner of Round Lake as the nominating petitions of Catalfamo’s potential Republican primary opponent have been challenged.
Catalfamo, in a recent news release, criticized Woerner for co-sponsoring legislation which, if enacted quickly, would allow former Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin, who has been indicted on corruption charges and resigned from office, to decline his spot on the June 28 Democratic primary ballot and be replaced by a new candidate, without Benjamin having to move out of state, one of the few reasons for declining that are available now.
“This is clearly an effort to remove a scandal from the top of the (Democratic) ticket,” Catalfamo said in a follow-up telephone interview.
Woerner said her co-sponsorship was in response to constituent concerns.
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“My staff tells me that we have had a number of calls from people outraged that this person (Benjamin) is still going to be running,” she said, in a telephone interview.
Woerner said the impetus is not specifically to get Benjamin off the ballot, but to correct a flaw in election law that Benjamin’s situation has brought to light.
The legislation that Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, D-Scarsdale, introduced April 19, and Woerner and 15 other Democratic Assembly members co-sponsored, would allow a candidate to decline a nomination for party designation because of being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, being indicted for a crime or having resigned the office the candidate had been seeking re-election to.
Companion legislation had not been introduced in the state Senate, as of Sunday.
Catalfamo said the election law may very well need to be addressed, but the process should not be rushed.
“It’s not a Republican or Democratic issue, it’s a fairness issue,” he said. “You don’t change the rules in the middle of an election.”
Woerner said there’s no evidence the law will be passed before the primary, but the issue needs attention either way.
“Will this get taken up in the next four weeks? Who knows,” she said.
Catalfamo, an economic development official and novelist from Wilton, is one of two candidates seeking the Republican nomination to challenge Woerner, a four-term incumbent, in the 113th Assembly District.
The other candidate is Scarlett De Witt, a restaurant worker and fashion model from Glens Falls.
Michael York, an earlier candidate, dropped out of the race when he was unable to get sufficient signatures on his nominating petitions.
Saratoga Springs Republican Chairman Michael Brandi and two others have challenged De Witt’s nominating petitions.
Brandi, as well as Robert Bush and Gae Bush of Malta, filed challenges alleging that nearly half of the signatures on De Witt’s nominating petitions are invalid for reasons such as witness inconsistencies, signatures not being dated, or the wrong town or city being listed, or because the signers are not enrolled in the Republican Party, according to complaints filed with the Board of Elections.
State Board of Elections spokeswoman Jennifer Wilson said the board is reviewing the challenges and does not have a specific time frame to issue a ruling.
De Witt, contacted Friday, said she is waiting for the board’s decision.
“I had been in contact with the Board of Elections prior to entering my signatures and they never mentioned some of these alleged violations,” she said.
If De Witt’s petitions are disqualified, it will spare Catalfamo a primary.
Catalfamo said he was aware that several people had spotted some possible irregularities in De Witt’s nominating petitions, but he did not know if there was a formal challenge.
Catalfamo also criticized Woerner for voting in favor of the congressional redistricting plan, which a state Supreme Court judge and a state mid-level appeals court panel have both overturned.
The state Court of Appeals is now reviewing the case that claims congressional districts were unconstitutionally drawn to favor the Democratic Party.
“It doesn’t fit the test of logic,” Catalfamo said, referring to the redistricting plan.
Woerner said she voted based on “quantitative” information available at the time.
Now it’s up to the courts to decide based on a “qualitative” aspect, she said.
“Do I feel they were done fairly from a Capital District perspective? They seem to be,” Woerner said.
Catalfamo has selected “Upstate Matters” as his campaign slogan.
He said he will focus on assuring that upstate interests are not overshadowed by those of the metropolitan New York City area.