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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

New Third Parties on Deck in New York

Today is the first day that signatures may be gathered for independent candidates for public office in New York State.

Under the Election Law, a statewide candidate has approximately 45 days to collect 15,000 signatures from voters. The signers can be from any party -- or no party -- but they must not have signed a petition for any other candidate for the same office.

Several months ago Crime, Politics and Policy reported that several incipient movements were afoot to establish new parties through gubernatorial candidacies. A new party may be formed if a candidate on an independent line gets a minimum of 50,000 votes.

It appears right now that Carl Paladino will be circulating petitions, as will a Republican Party sponsored candidate (maybe Steve Levy). Each seems to be an effort to supplant the Conservative Party as the "right wing" party in the state and hence deny it of its influence in cross-endorsing Republican candidates -- while an insurgent Conservative Party candidate (Ralph Lorigo) is assured of a primary against Republican Rick Lazio. Lorigo may be intent on driving the current Conservative state leadership out of the party, angling for either a takeover of the party or to end its existence altogether.

The removal of the Conservative Party from official status in New York could be accomplished if its nominee fails to get 50,000 votes in the general election.  It is possible at least four "conservative" candidates could be on the November general election ballot: the Republican nominee (Lazio is the Republican convention's designated candidate but Paladino will try to force a primary through petitioning), the Conservative nominee (both Lazio and Lorigo are on the primary ballot thanks to the party convention vote), and independent lines for each of Paladino and Levy.   -- or both -- can run in the general election as one of several "conservative" candidates, theoretically splitting conservative support among several candidates: Lazio, Lorigo, Levy and Paladino (each of whom may have a general election line when all is said and done). 

The danger to the Conservative Party is two-fold.  It currently has "Row C" on all ballots because its 2006 candidate got the third-most votes of any line, ahead of other minor parties.  If all right-of-center candidates run and split the vote, the Conservative Party candidate could theoretically run sixth (for example) and that party could become "Row G."  It would lose its patronage and virtually all of its cross-endorsement power and leverage, and hence its influence in state politics.  So the stakes are high.
(Eric Dixon is a New York election lawyer. He is not working on behalf of any of the aforementioned parties or candidates. He may be reached at http://www.nybusinesscounsel.com/ and at 917-696-2442.)

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