Petitions are in, which NY-22 candidates are left standing?

Written originally at Binghamton Political Buzz at Examiner.com, by Michael “Vass” Vasquez on April 14, 2016.

Seal of Congress

As of April 14, 2016, petitions for the New York 22nd Congressional District are flowing into the NY State Board of Elections (NYSBOE). These petitions collected since March 8, 2016 will determine the fate for several of the candidates in the 2016 election. Only those candidates that cross the threshold of 1,250 signatures will be allowed to have their names appear in the June 28, 2016 primaries, making a run for the November election without it virtually improbable.

Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney of Oneida County is the frontrunner of the NY-22 election and was the first of the 8 candidates in the race to submit petitions gathered. New York is unique in that it splits the congressional race from State and local elections (as well as the Presidential Primary which will be on April 19, 2016). In the filing made by the Tenney Campaign some 3600 petitions, from all 8 Counties that make up the NY-22, were submitted on Monday. There may be an additional series of petitions received via mail by April 15 per NYSBOE regulations – but that is not confirmed at this time.

These Tenney petitions were for the Republican Party alone, as there are multiple ballot lines that are available in NY – each with its own requirements. The Conservative Party petitions for the Tenney Campaign at this time, appear to stand at 550 signatures which indicates this too exceeds the minimum required. The Conservative Party has already endorsed Tenney.

Steve Wells, from Madison County, has also submitted petitions for the Republican Party line. There are some 2,700 petitions that were for the Wells Campaign. But it should be noted that the overwhelming majority of those petitions were from Madison and Oneida Counties alone.

Preliminary review indicates that roughly 200 petitions were gathered as a combined total from Oswego, Tioga, Herkimer,Broome and Chenango Counties (in order of lowest to highest). It would appear from the number of signatures that the Wells Campaign has significant troubles in the overwhelming majority of the District. This is concurrent with a large advertising campaign active since March.

It should also be noted that there is a rule of thumb to petitions. It is common to target no less than twice the number of required signatures to be considered safe. Campaigns at all levels routinely try to gather at least this amount as often entire pages of signatures can be thrown out due to various errors invalidating them.

It is routine for contested campaigns, such as in the NY-22 which is the most contested in the nation at this time to our knowledge, to issue challenges and whittle down competitors. This is especially true when a challenger is under the informal double rule, as it is an inexpensive and easy way to remove competition. Again, this is standard in politics.

The details become less exact for some of the remaining candidates. George Phillips of Broome County has filed his petitions. When we spoke to the Phillips Campaign they stated that roughly 2,000 petitions were to be filed. Review has determined that only 1,900 signatures were gained. It is also known there was a County of extreme focus in the petitions.

As of April 8th, when the Phillips Campaign collected its signatures, only 1,454 were available. This would not have withstood challenge, and Mr. Phillips directly embarked on gaining an additional 446 signatures over 5 days. We estimate that this high school history teacher spent on average about 9.5 hours a day, walking 12 miles a day, (spending no more than 3 minutes at every house, without breaks for bathroom/eating/rest according to our calculation) to gain the extra petitions – making him responsible for 40% (580) of all petitions gathered in his campaign.

Much like the Wells Campaign, Phillips was nearly exclusive in the region he collected signatures from. The majority of signatures were from just Broome County, most in the region surrounding the City of Binghamton. Again, like Wells, this may foreshadow problems garnering support from the other 7 Counties in the District.

The fourth Republican in the race, Aaron Price also of Broome County has yet to file his petitions. We were not able to reach the campaign directly but did leave a request for the public figures. As of the time of this article are unaware if any petitions have been filed. We also mention that there have been some rumors that Aaron Price may be the first of the candidates to exit the race, which could be related to the petition totals.

For the Democrats, we contacted David Gordon’s Oneida County campaign. We were told that approximately 1700 petition signatures were filed with the NYSBOE by the end of the day. Further details were not available at this time about the grouping and concentration of these petitions.

Lastly  for Democrats we reached out to Broome County Legislator Kim Myers. The Myers Campaign has already filed 379 pages of petitions. This is uncommon though still legal. But due to the unusual volume of petitions and the other irregularities, we do not have a figure for the number of petitions filed. Based on rumors of difficulties as late as a week ago, and estimating average number of signatures per page, Legislator Myers has a range of 1,250 signatures to possibly 3,000. Our attempt to contact the Myers Campaign went without response for this article.

Given these rough figures, challenges on all candidates except Assemblywoman Tenney have the potential to remove every candidate from the race. The most in danger (in order of likelihood) are: Legislator Myers; David Gordon; and George Phillips tied with Steve Wells. Another factor that is a wild card to affect the chance of a petition becoming invalid are paid petitioners.

These are often college students, not volunteers, who gather petitions and are paid an hourly wage for the work. They have no connection to any campaign. Often they are inexperienced in the process and create errors. We are aware of Martin Babinec and Steve Wells using paid workers primarily in their petition efforts.

We did not include Martin Babinec, who is running on the Independence line. Though we reported that he did have paid petitioners in Binghamton, NY as late as April 8, 2016, he has not submitted the petitions to our knowledge. Our attempts to reach his campaign have resulted in no response thus far. We are unaware of any rumors connected to the campaign that could affect petitions. In fact, we are unaware of any information from any of our sources in the 8 Counties of the NY-22 District related to the Babinec Campaign beyond the website and our prior article. The minimum requirement to qualify is 1,154 signatures.

Further, the final candidate in the race is Libertarian David Pasick. As NY State does not recognize the Libertarian Party as a significant political force in the State, petitions are not required at this time. Instead, starting on June 21, 2016 until July 26, 2016, the Libertarian Party will join any other independent seeking petitions to run for the NY-22 race.

This now brings the public up to date with all the candidates in the race. Potentially, once challenges are issued, there are 2 likely outcomes. First, the worst case scenario is that there will only be 2 Republicans – either Steve Wells or George Phillips and Claudia Tenney; either Legislator Kim Myers or David Gordon for Democrats; and Libertarian David Pasick left once the dust settles. The best case scenario for most of the candidates (depending on the perspective) will be that only Aaron Price fails to enter the next stage of the challenge.

One pattern is starting to emerge though. Claudia Tenney is dominating the race, even with the slew of competition. Advertising campaign have already started by relative unknowns Steve Wells and Martin Babinec. Whether that frontrunner status will continue to be hers is up to the public.

** Update – Martin Babinec filed approximately 1,256 signatures, barely exceeding the minimum required to gain access to the ballot. In updating the ranking of candidates in danger of exiting the race due to petition challenges (from most likely to least): Martin Babinec; Legislator Myers; David Gordon; and George Phillips tied with Steve Wells.

Challenges to petitions are on-going, and any resulting shake-up in who will be running should be public within 2 weeks. **

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