ALBANY — Independent Candidate for the 19th Congressional District Diane Neal, of Hurley, again held her spot on the ballot for Nov. 6, beating another attempt from Democrats to argue she was illegally placed on the ballot in July.
The state Supreme Court Appellate Division — the state’s highest court — upheld its Sept. 17 decision that challenges to petition the signatures Neal filed with the state Board of Elections that are required to be placed on the ballot.
A member of the Rhinebeck Democratic Committee, Rima Liscum, challenged the validity of about 4,181 petition signatures Neal filed. During a special meeting Aug. 22, the state Board of Elections determined 1,852 of the signature were invalid, leaving her short of the 3,500 signatures required to appear on the ballot Nov. 6.
Neal and her then-fellow independent candidate Dal LaMagna, of Rhinebeck, whose petitions were also determined invalid, filed an appeal with the state Supreme Court, arguing the challenges were improperly served because of a mix up — both independent candidates received the other’s challenges in the mail.
The Supreme Court upheld the state Board of Elections’ determination, but the Appellate Court disagreed, allowing Neal to be on the ballot.
Liscum and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee filed a petition Sept. 21 to appeal the Appellate Court’s decision — a petition the court denied.
“This is a win for those who are tired of power brokers shoving the two-party system down our throats,” Neal said. “We surpassed the high number of signatures they required us to get, so they challenged that.
“Then, they went to court to appeal our victory that got us on the ballot. There are no more obstacles they can throw at us. Today’s a win for democracy.”
Neal’s campaign points the finger at both the Democratic and Republican parties, she said, arguing though the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has led the fight, the lawyer who argued the issue in court, Robert Harding, has strong ties to prominent Republican politicians.
Harding was Liscum’s counsel in the case at the Appellate Court level, according to court documents, and he previously served as New York City deputy mayor of Economic Development and Finance under Rudy Giuliani.
“Neither the Republicans or Democrats want me in this race and that is precisely why I should be in it,” Neal said. “For far too long, machine politics have dominated this region and that has adversely affected investment, development and job creation here. This is an independent district and now is the time for an independent voice to speak for the people here. We tried the party experiment and it failed miserably.”
U.S. Rep. John Faso, R-19, and his campaign have demonized the Democrats and his Democratic challenger Antonio Delgado, of Rhinebeck, for trying to push independent candidates from the ballot.
“Nancy Pelosi and Antonio Delgado failed in their attempt to remove Diane Neal from the ballot,” Faso’s campaign spokesman Joe Gierut said. “Their attempts are pretty hypocritical actions coming from those who call themselves ‘progressive.’”
Delgado’s campaign and the DCCC did not respond to requests for comment.