WATERTOWN — Two mayoral candidates who tied for second place in last month’s primary got some news on Tuesday that could allow them to be on the ballot in the general election in November.
A city voter filed legal action — called an Article 78 proceeding — in state Supreme Court on Tuesday morning that could resolve an impasse between the two Jefferson County election commissioners on whether the two candidates should be put on the ballot in November.
Paddock Street resident Samuel S. Thomas, who serves as the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals chairman, said Tuesday he was compelled to do something after the two election commissioners could not agree whether Councilman Cody J. Horbacz and Allison I. Crossman should be put on the ballot.
While respecting their opinions, Mr. Thomas decided to seek legal action because the situation needed to be resolved “immediately,” he said.
“The recent situation is compromising our democratic rights and is casting a negative perception on our election process,” he said in a prepared statement.
According to papers filed in Jefferson County Court, Republican Election Commissioner Jude R. Seymour and Democratic Commissioner Babette M. Hall are failing to perform their duties by not agreeing on whether the two candidates should be on the ballot.
“It looks like he’s taking legal action,” Councilman Horbacz said, adding that he doesn’t know Mr. Thomas. “I want to review the paperwork before I comment.”
Mrs. Crossman said she had no idea that Mr. Thomas was filing the Article 78 — an action that allows a plaintiff to oppose an action taken by a board, municipality or agency — until she heard about it Tuesday morning.
“It’s unfortunate that it came to this,” she said. “Mr. Thomas is the perfect example of how the voters are neglected in this situation.”
According to court papers, Councilman Horbacz, Mrs. Crossman and former Councilman Jeffrey M. Smith all should appear on the ballot.
The issue stems from the mayoral race being nonpartisan, and the city’s law doesn’t have a provision in place for ties.
Mr. Smith also welcomed the news.
“Good, now something will get resolved,” he said. “Now we’ll get some clarity.”
Both election commissioners have been hoping someone initiated court action, they said Tuesday.
“It’s the only way to resolve it,” Ms. Hall said.
The case will be heard in state Supreme Court. A judge has not been set and court date has not been scheduled.
The primary stalemate left Mrs. Crossman and Councilman Horbacz tied for second place with 597 votes each. Mr. Smith had the most votes with 837.
Ms. Hall has called for all three candidates to be on the ballot, while Mr. Seymour has said he wouldn’t certify the primary until a judge determined how many candidates should proceed to the general election.
“We both said someone had to intervene,” Mr. Seymour said.
The issue revolves around a reading of the city nonpartisan election law, which says “the board of elections shall certify under the hand of its secretary or commissioners the names of the persons who received the largest and next largest number of votes for mayor.”
Supporters contend that “persons” would allow for the two candidates to face Mr. Smith in November.
Mrs. Crossman has served on the zoning board with Mr. Thomas, who’s been on the board since 1992 and as its chairman for the past five years, for a little more than a year.
Mr. Thomas insisted that his relationship with Mrs. Crossman “has nothing to do at all” with his decision to take the legal action. He stressed that he didn’t sign her election petition to get on the ballot for the primary.
“It’s my opinion...that all three candidates appear on the ballot,” Mr. Thomas said.
City Attorney Robert J. Slye filed the court papers on behalf of Mr. Thomas, who said he approached the attorney about filing the Article 78.
As the city attorney, Mr. Slye has advocated in recent days for all three candidates running in November.
On Monday, the City Council passed a resolution expressing their opinion all three candidates should be on the ballot.