After a back-and-forth battle in the courts, three-term Upper East Side Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright has been knocked off the 2020 ballot after her campaign made a filing error.
Seawright’s disqualification would leave an absence on the Democratic and Working Families Party lines, making Republican Louis Puliafito, who currently works as a residential doorman, the only candidate currently on the ballot to represent the 76th Assembly District — which represents part of the Upper East Side, Yorkville and Roosevelt Island.
In a 5 to 2 decision released Thursday, the Court of Appeals reversed two lower court rulings that had restored Seawright to the ballot after the Board of Elections disqualified her candidacy because she had failed to provide cover pages with her petition signatures. The lower courts noted that Seawright’s mistakes occurred at an unprecedented time amid the coronavirus pandemic — especially as Seawright was sick with what she described as ‘”COVID-like symptoms at the time — and thus they granted an exception in her case.
The state’s highest court, however, was not as forgiving.
“Applying the Election Law, we have repeatedly held that the failure to timely file required papers in connection with a designating petition, including a cover sheet or certificate of acceptance, is a ‘fatal defect’ that cannot be excused,” read the majority opinion. “The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly presented uniquely challenging circumstances for Seawright ... among countless other candidates for public office. Nonetheless, as in our prior cases, we remain constrained by the express directive of the Election Law: the complete failure to file, by the applicable deadline, either a cover sheet with a designating petition or a certificate of acceptance constitutes a ‘fatal defect.’”
Puliafito’s lawyer, Lawrence Mandelker, told the New York Post that he was pleased with the court’s ruling, saying the law should apply to all candidates.
"Freedom of Choice"
Still, Seawright is not giving up the fight. The assembly member said the Court of Appeals ruling “will not be the last word.”
“We are taking all necessary steps to avail ourselves of our legal right to run for re-election on an independent line,” Seawright said in a statement. “We must assure freedom of choice for the voters of the Upper East Side, Yorkville, and Roosevelt Island.”
She also emphasized the importance of giving voters a choice of more than one candidate.
“The Republican Party has thus far forced a Soviet Union-style election with a sole hand-picked candidate,” she said. “We will continue to fight for ballot access so that the voters will have a choice this November.”
“The Republican Party has thus far forced a Soviet Union-style election with a sole hand-picked candidate.We will continue to fight for ballot access so that the voters will have a choice this November." Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright