Region’s candidates OK with Cuomo suspending petition process

PLATTSBURGH — To help reduce the spread of COVID-19, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order Saturday that will suspend the candidate petitioning process for the June primaries for Congressional, State Senate, Assembly and judicial races.

The suspension goes into effect 5 p.m. Tuesday. The order additionally mandates that candidates will only need to collect 30% of the necessary signatures to get on the ballot.

That’s a reduction from 1,250 to 375 signatures for congressional candidates, 300 instead of 1,000 for state Senate candidates and 150 rather than 500 for state Assembly candidates.

“Public health experts have been clear that one of the most common ways to communicate COVID-19 is through direct person-to-person contact, and we are doing everything in our immediate power to reduce unnecessary interactions,” Cuomo said in a statement.

“This executive order modifies the election process in a way that both protects public health and ensures the democratic process remains healthy and strong regardless of the ongoing pandemic.”

Health, safety

Both North Country Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, and her challenger, Democrat Tedra Cobb of Canton, suspended all petitioning efforts Saturday.

In a statement, the Elise for Congress campaign said the health and safety of constituents, staff and volunteers remained its top priority.

“Today (Saturday) we are announcing that the Elise for Congress re-election campaign has completed the petition process with record numbers. We will no longer be gathering any signatures starting at 5 p.m. today.

“Due to the early enthusiasm and hard work of our volunteers and staff, the Elise for Congress campaign finished the petition process early and overwhelmingly qualified for the Republican, Conservative and Independence lines with a record number of signatures.

“We urge all constituents across New York’s 21st District to continue to follow (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and county public health office guidance as shared by Congresswoman Stefanik’s official office.”

“People first”

In a statement posted to Twitter Saturday night, Cobb thanked all who carried or signed a petition.

“Tonight I am happy to announce that Team Tedra secured the required amount of signatures for both the Democrat and Working Families party lines.

“Effective immediately we will cease all petitioning efforts.”

Cobb said she wouldn’t be here without the hard work of volunteers and staff.

“While we are encouraged by the momentum behind this campaign we must recognize the challenges before us. We are already seeing the impacts of COVID-19 on our community.”

Cobb asked people to reach out to their friends and family, check on older folks in their communities and heed CDC and local health officials’ recommendations.

“This campaign will always put people first. Your health and safety remain my top priority.”

Appreciate efforts

Clinton County Treasurer Kimberly Davis, who is running as a Democrat for the 45th State Senate District seat, said the changes were wise and prudent.

“It’s been more and more difficult over the last few days to get people to both sign and also go out to volunteer because of the nervousness,” she told the Press-Republican.

“We appreciate (Cuomo’s) efforts to understand not wanting to put ourselves at risk, not wanting to put our volunteers at risk and not wanting to put the general public at risk because we’re going and meeting so many people.”

Davis was confident about signature numbers and thanked everyone who went door-to-door given COVID-19 concerns.

Reasonable, fair

Assemblyman Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, also a candidate for the 45th State Senate District seat, said he supported the governor’s decision.

“I think the option he took was the most reasonable and the most fair one,” he told the Press-Republican.

The measure both gave people some notice and carried on the democratic principles of how the state’s elections run, he added.

Stec said he had plenty of signatures for the Republican, Conservative and Independence party lines.

Village of Cambridge Mayor Carman Bogle and retired English teacher Kevin Beary of Colton are looking to force a primary against Stec.

Bogle said Thursday that she had encouraged those carrying petitions to exercise their best judgment, wash their hands often, wipe their pens and respect wishes of the voters they visit.

Beary had said cutting the amount of signatures required was a good idea.

Abundance of caution

Assemblyman D. Billy Jones, D-Plattsburgh, who is running for reelection this fall, said the measure was rightfully taken out of an abundance of caution. “I think everybody can agree that while we’re going through this, certainly these steps were needed and taken,” he said.

Jones’s campaign had halted people from collecting signatures.

“We have our numbers, so we are definitely well above the threshold,” he said.