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Republican leader withdraws suit on Owens’ petition

May 17, 2012
By CHRIS MORRIS - Staff Writer ( , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

A lawsuit aimed at removing Bill Owens' name from the Working Families Party line has been withdrawn.

Clinton County Republican Party Chairman Don Lee had filed the suit earlier this month in Saratoga County Supreme Court. It's since been withdrawn because party chairs are not allowed to file such lawsuits themselves, under state election laws.

"We think we had merit," Lee told the Enterprise. "I don't know how the case would have gone had it moved forward."

Article Photos

U.S. Rep. Bill Owens, D-Plattsburgh
(Enterprise file photo)

Lee said that Article 16, Section 102 of state election law states a party chairperson can't be the objector on a lawsuit.

"With that said, it was too late to have someone else go through with the case," he said.

The state Board of Elections previously discarded 18 signatures from Owens' WFP petition, but he still had enough to qualify for the ballot. The Democrat from Plattsburgh is running for re-election in New York's new 21st Congressional District, which mostly includes his current 23rd District. He faces several challengers including Republicans Matt Doheny and Kellie Greene, and Green Party candidate Donald Hassig.

"I'm a little discouraged at my own ineptitude," Lee said. "I should have caught (the rule)."

Lee said he won't pursue the matter any further.

"I'm not going to the ends of the earth to do this," he said.

Owens' campaign manager, James Hannaway, told the Enterprise, "We were confident our Working Families Party signatures would stand."

When he filed the lawsuit, Lee said he believed most of the signatures on the petition were invalid because of incorrect addresses and questionable signatures. He enlisted the Plattsburgh-based private investigation firm McKee & Associates to investigate the signatures.

The investigators reported that Jacqueline Bellew, who circulated a WFP petition for Owens, did not administer an oath, as required by election law, to at least 16 people who signed the petition. They also found that Bellew, a notary public, did not "properly confirm the identity of the person signing the petition."



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