A state appeals committee put Democrat Eudson Francois back on the ballot for the 97th Assembly District against Republican Congressman Michael Lawler, who said he appealed the decision.
The Court of Appeal is scheduled to hear Lawler’s appeal on Monday.
The election battle revolves around the intricacies of state election law, in which candidates can be expelled for minor infractions, such as failing to provide a correct address or electoral district.
A second Democrat was knocked out of the primary ballot by an appeals panel after being nominated as the replacement candidate by Democrats in Ramapo. That decision is not appealed, leaving the Democratic ballot line open to Francois, a Spring Valley Democrat and former village administrator who lost a November write-in campaign for mayor.
Lawler, a Pearl River Republican and political consultant, won the two-year seat in 2020 by defeating Democrat Ellen Jaffee of Ramapo.
Lawler is appealing the decision
Lawler said he was appealing on the basis of the Francis campaign’s violation of election laws and argued that Judge Rolf Thorsen should never have considered the Board of Elections’ appeal invalidating Francis’ petition.
Lawler said the judge should not have considered an unverified position and that Francois missed the deadline to file an appeal.
Francis needed 500 valid signatures for a ballot. He submitted 688 names to the Board of Elections, which ruled 206 names invalid. Thorson found that 57 or 58 names were split decisions, with the Republican and Democratic commissioners disagreeing on validity. And 22 of the signatures and other names should not have been invalidated, bringing his total to 504 approved signatures.
Thorson threw out Francis’ petitions because he did not include his address on some witness statements.
The four-judge appeal panel reversed Thorson “on the statute, without costs or disbursements, the motion, among other things, to validate is granted, and the Rockland County Board of Elections is instructed to place Eudson’s name Tyson François on the proper ballot.”
“It was a bad call,” Lawler said of Thorsen. “The judge did his best to help Eudson. The Board of Elections concluded that his petitions were invalid. The judge should never have heard the case.”
Rockland Democratic Party Chairman John Gromada said Lawler was worried about being challenged. He said two courts had found Francois had collected more than enough valid signatures and the appeals court had found Lawler’s arguments to be without merit.
“Mike Lawler’s continued effort to impeach Eudson Francois over a technicality is a sad and cynical attempt to deny voters a choice of candidates in November,” Gromada said. “Nevertheless, Lawler continues to seek a court that would agree with him and thwart democracy by deciding the election instead of letting the people decide.”
Francois said he was ready to take on Lawler, who has a big campaign war chest.
“Mike Lawler may be scared of democratic elections, but I’m not,” he said. “My petitions prove that I have the support of the voters of this district. Assemblyman Lawler should accept the fact that elections involve competition.”
Ramapo’s candidate ousted by justice
François de Ramapo’s competitor was eliminated from the ballot for several technical violations of electoral law. Aron Felberman had been chosen to succeed the first candidate, Michael Klatsky, an urban planner from Ramapo who lives in New Jersey.
Klatsky’s vacancies panel, including Ramapo’s Democratic Party chairwoman Mona Montal, picked Felberman when Klatsky dropped out. The panel included Chris Sampson, former city clerk and party chairman, Yitzchok Ullman, city tax collector, and Aron Bineth.
Following a challenge by Lawler and his supporters, acting state Supreme Court Justice Paul Marx ruled that Felberman’s nomination was invalid and suffered from fatal flaws. the decision was upheld by the appeal panel.
Certification of his candidacy became a problem. The judge also refused to allow a written entry.
Montal said there was misinformation about how to certify Felberman provided by the state and local Board of Elections. She said Felberman was chosen to meet the wishes of the Orthodox Jewish community in Monsey, which wanted a representative in Albany. The newly drawn district cuts Monsey in half, diluting the bloc’s vote.
Lawmaker Aron Weider, the only Hasidic Jewish lawmaker on the board, declined to run. He has previously run unsuccessful runs in a district that includes Kiryas Joel in Orange County.
“What happened was that the message from Monsey’s heart was that they wanted to field a candidate,” Montal said. “They wanted a Democrat. The rest of the Assembly District is represented by Republicans.”
Montal said she understands why Lawler is seeking to weed out opposition candidates. He beat Jaffee with a strong block vote.
“I don’t blame him,” Montal said of the new neighborhood. “It’s not an easy neighborhood and it’s not a shoo-in for him.”
Lawler, who was planning to run for Congress and the state Senate, said he defeated Jaffee by building a coalition of voters and would do the same.
“At the end of the day, anyone who wants to support me will,” Lawler said. “Two years ago I formed a coalition and won. I will do it again and I will succeed in November.”
Steve Lieberman covers government, breaking news, courts, police and investigations. Contact him at [email protected] Twitter: @lohudlegal. Read more articles and bio. Our local coverage is only possible with the support of our readers.