Tonko keeps Independence line

Court rules against Dieterich’s bid to invalidate signatures

— A court has ruled in favor of Rep. Paul Tonko and brought to a close an attempt by his opponent, Bob Dieterich, to strike his name from the Independence Party line.

Schenectady County Supreme Court Justice Barry Kramer denied Dieterich’s lawsuit seeking to invalidate signatures on Tonko’s Independence Party petition. Dieterich’s campaign sought to invalidate 52 out of 167 pages of Independence designating petitions, which it claimed would leave Tonko below the required amount of signatures.

The Court actually added six signatures back on to Tonko’s petition previously struck by the state Board of Elections before reaching a decision. Tonko’s campaign collected 1,176 signatures, above the required 871, and the state board had tossed out 48.

Dieterich made a bid for the Independence Party line but failed to secure the party’s nomination. He also didn’t obtain enough signatures to force a primary.

Michael J. Kenneally, a spokesman for Dieterich, said the campaign had considered appealing the decision, but decided against it “due to the time sensitive nature of the case.”

“Obviously we’re disappointed with the decision,” Kenneally said in an email. “Had we known that election laws are merely suggestions, we easily could have secured enough signatures to force a primary election.”

Tonko’s campaign was pleased with the court’s decision and in a statement said Dietrich should shift his focus towards “issues important to families,” such as Medicare, Social Security, job creation and “middle class values.”

“Our opponent’s campaign has been obsessed over these wild allegations for the past two months,” Tonko said. “The court’s recent ruling soundly dismissed these charges.”

Dieterich had sought to invalidate commissioners of deeds (the people collecting signatures on Tonko’s behalf), but judge Kramer decided early in proceedings the commissioners were valid, according to court transcripts.

Also, Kramer said allegations of fraud from Dietrich’s campaign were unfounded.

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