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SEP 15 - SEP 22, 2015

Women's Equality Party Smacks into Legal Glass Ceiling

Deborah Eddel

SEP 15, 2015

Mary Jo Tamburlin scores a victory for Republicans by denying Cuomo control.

The Niagara Falls Reporter has, over the years, earned a grudging respect for the Niagara County Republican Party.  This is not said as an endorsement of their political philosophy, but as an acknowledgement of their brute strength as an organization, and the elegance with which they routinely outfox their Democratic rivals.

When it is Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo they outplay, though, we will break form and actually applaud their audaciousness.

So it was Monday, in the courtroom of State Supreme Court Judge Frank Caruso, where GOP operatives sued other GOP operatives to invalidate an entire political party.

To give the shorthand of the outcome: Caruso ruled that, because the newly-created Women’s Equality Party’s organizational rules did not have the authorization of a majority of the statewide candidates it supported last November—when petitioning put the party on the ballot at the behest of Cuomo—no slate of officers seeking to control the party could do so, and no candidates could be placed on the ballot, anywhere in New York State, as the candidates of the Women’s Equality Party.

The party, a creation of the Cuomo campaign, is now a burr under Cuomo’s saddle, and that a scrappy group of GOP operatives here in Niagara County seem to have torpedoed the party is a sign of just how weak this Governor is, after scandal and politically tone-deaf moves like the New York SAFE Act have sapped his political mojo.

Equally fascinating, though, is the way that local GOP operatives took down the party.

A group of Cuomo loyalists organized around Senate candidate Barbara Fiala and Democrat operative Rachel Gold submitted the first set of rules for the party, and were supported in that move by Cuomo and Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who endorsed their rules as binding. However, since the party endorsed four statewide candidates—Cuomo, Hochul, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, and Comptroller Tom DiNapoli—Cuomo and Hochul alone don’t constitute a majority of the endorsed candidates when the Women’s Equality Party formally became a party.

Meanwhile, Schneiderman and DiNapoli have been under enormous pressure from the Working Families Party, which feared it would hemorrhage sufficient votes to the Women’s Equality line in future elections that it might risk being delisted as party—making it impossible for them to throw in with Cuomo’s too-cute-by-half made-up political party.

Buffalo attorney Peter Reese, a friend to this newspaper, meanwhile (full disclosure: Reese and the Niagara Falls Reporter are jointly filing suit against the Niagara County Board of Elections in a matter to determine the latter’s obligations under the state’s Freedom of Information Law) took up the case of a group of party activists organized around former Eastern New York State Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk.

Reese and attorneys for Cuomo and Hochul also found themselves in Caruso’s chambers arguing their case.

The outcome of this three-ring circus, though, showed it remains the local Republicans who are the best ring-masters around.

Joey DeLabio, a Republican activist, sued Republican County Legislator Kathryn Lance of Wheatfield and County Legislature Clerk Mary Jo Tamburlin, who was put forth as a competing chairwoman of the party, to block Lance from being placed on the ballot as the Women’s Equality Party candidate.

It bears noting that Lance faces no opposition this fall.

Caruso was forced to not only rule in favor of DeLabio’s motion, filed by his attorney—North Tonawanda City Attorney Shawn Nickerson, another Republican in Good Standing—and bar Lance from the ballot, but prospective candidates statewide.

Caruso also blocked Tamburlin’s ascendancy as party chairwoman—and Tkaczyk’s and Gold’s as well.

The end result? Local Republicans sued each other to block a new party designed to benefit Andrew Cuomo and his handpicked candidates from gaining a ballot line.

They won…by losing.






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