The 60th state Senate District will not be a two-candidate race for the first time in a number of election cycles, as had been expected.
Early last week a state Supreme Court judge ruled that James DePasquale, who had petitioned to become the Green Party candidate but had his ballots invalidated through an internal party process, will appear on the line Nov. 8.
In the ruling, Judge John Michalski said Charley Tarr, the Erie County Green Party chairman, and others seeking to invalidate DePasquale’s status as a member of the party, had failed to provide adequate evidence of their claims that DePasquale was a surrogate for Republican operatives looking to take over the party line.
“On the scant record of the Green Party’s September 1, 2016 subcommittee hearing, we find that the cancellation of Mr. DePasquale’s enrollment was unjust,” Michalski wrote.
The judge noted that the evidence collected during the hearing where DePasquale was determined to be unsympathetic to the principles of the party, which is grounds for denial of enrollment under the state law, was only a one-page summary decision and “utterly fails to recite any factual or evidentiary basis” to conclude that DePasquale was a GOP plant.
“Were witnesses called?” Michalski asked in the decision. “What, if any documentation was produced? Was the evidence merely anecdotal?”
Additionally, documents from the hearing filed as evidence by the Green Party members were not properly dated, raising statutory issues.
Meanwhile, DePasquale, who registered with the Green Party in early June, submitted an affidavit “clearly manifesting his support for the Green Party platform,” according to the decision.
Indeed, DePasquale’s petitions were carried by Republican insiders and people with ties to Erie County Clerk Chris Jacobs, the Republican candidate in the race.
Amber Small, the Democratic nominee, has said the involvement of Republicans in DePasquale’s efforts is an indication that the Erie County GOP is attempting to siphon votes from her by splitting the ticket on the left, adding that she believes irregularities with the petitions could rise to the level of fraud.
“I am appalled at the utter lack of respect for the electoral process and the voters of WNY,” Small said in a statement issued in July. “My opponent has shown that he is no better than the corrupt leaders who have been lining the halls of Albany for the last decade.”
While DePasquale’s presence on the ballot is unlikely to hold any significant sway over the number of votes Small receives – he has no campaign to speak of – it could play a role in the final outcome. While most experts give the edge to Jacobs, a few hundred votes could potentially play a role in a close race.
Both the Jacobs and Small campaigns declined to comment on the decision.