Volume 76, Number 14 | August 23 - 29, 2006

For once, Connor can’t get opponent off the ballot

By David Spett

Ken Diamondstone, who is challenging incumbent Martin Connor for the Democratic nomination for State Senate in the 25th District, is back on the ballot.

Diamondstone won a State Supreme Court case on Aug. 11, overturning a previous State Board of Elections decision to take his name off the Sept. 12 primary ballot. The B.O.E. ruled that Diamondstone had registered his in-district address, 200 Clinton St., one day too late.

But the State Supreme Court disagreed, and Connor’s appeal to the Appellate Division failed. The Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, will hear a second appeal from Connor on Aug. 23.

In its ruling, the State Supreme Court wrote that Connor “failed to establish” that Diamondstone did not reside in the district in time to run for State Senate.

“If this court were to adopt the objectors’ interpretation of the residency requirements for state legislators, candidates would be forced to move into an Assembly or Senate district in which they seek to be elected at least 11/2 to 2 years prior to the general election. … The court finds that such an interpretation is contrary to the plain language of the constitutional provision,” Judge Ira B. Harkavy wrote.

Diamondstone said the court case is a serious distraction from the real issues, like affordable housing, campaign finance reform and lobbying reform.

“We prevailed [in Supreme Court], we prevailed in the Appellate Division, and there’s virtually no chance this will be overturned in the Court of Appeals,” Diamondstone said. “So we’re very, very pleased to have won this battle so we can now start talking about issues that are of much more concern to us.”

A top election lawyer, Connor, in the 2005 Second District City Council primary race, knocked several Democratic primary candidates off the ballot for Rosie Mendez, helping her to victory.

Connor, Diamondstone added, “doesn’t have the resources to run a campaign. He’s using this in order to avoid dealing with the issues and his record. But he won’t succeed.”

According to Connor’s campaign, Diamondstone has poured a quarter of a million dollars of his own money into the race. Meanwhile, Connor’s funds are running low, according to the B.O.E. Web site.

Marty Algaze, an aide to Connor, said he was disappointed in the court decisions but still confident that Connor will prevail in the Sept. 12 primary if the Court of Appeals doesn’t rule in his favor.

“It’s always difficult to get people off the ballot,” Algaze said. “We’ll continue to campaign, raise money and do all the things you need to do when you have an election to deal with.”

Algaze said Diamondstone is inexperienced compared to Connor, who has been a state senator for 28 years. Connor was formerly the State Senate’s minority leader until being ousted by David Paterson a few years ago. Now that Paterson is running for lieutenant governor, Connor is eyeing a comeback as minority leader.

“Diamondstone hasn’t done anything in his life,” Algaze said. “We question anything that he’s ever done in his life that would qualify him to be elected to any office, let alone an office that has a real important role to play in passing laws. I can’t imagine anyone who’s really an intelligent voter who would really choose to vote for Ken Diamondstone, who’s had zilch for ideas or experience.”

The New York Times is backing Diamondstone. On Aug. 20, the Times recommended voters support Diamondstone over Connor. Diamondstone is “the go-to man for politicians who want to get pesky challengers off the ballot,” the Times’s editorial stated, adding, “Senator Connor is something of an Albany institution. But Albany needs change, not institutions.”

If Diamondstone loses the primary, he will still run in November in the general election on the Working Families Party line.

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