Koons drops out of NY-21 race after allegedly falsifying petition entries
CARTHAGE — The local man running for the Republican nomination to Congress against Rep. Elise M. Stefanik has dropped out of the race after he allegedly broke petitioning rules.
Lonny W. Koons’ announcement that he was suspending his congressional campaign came within an hour after the conservative online newspaper The Daily Caller published a story detailing how Mr. Koons, a Carthage-area trucker and veteran, had been caught allegedly filling out petition sheets fraudulently. Candidates are required to turn in petitions with signatures from their party’s voters in order to appear on the ballot.
In two videos posted to YouTube by a channel called “North Country Watch,” Mr. Koons is shown in his vehicle at a Walmart, reading from something in the passenger seat. The location is identified as Ticonderoga, Essex County, in the video subtitles.
In Mr. Koons’ hand is a petition packet, and he can clearly be seen signing, dating and adding addresses for signature entries. It’s unclear where Mr. Koons got the information he was writing, but any petition to appear on the ballot must bear the authentic, original mark of the signer themselves, according to state election law.
In both of the seconds-long videos, it appears Mr. Koons did not notice he was being filmed through his car window.
In a Thursday afternoon statement, Mr. Koons said his first reason for dropping out is that he doesn’t have the money to keep running a campaign.
“I am doing this mainly because I cannot sustain a political campaign on my own,” he said. “I had stayed afloat by pulling out half of my 401(k) and that is not enough.”
In his statement, Mr. Koons said he was unaware that filling out the date and city entries on a petition was illegal, but did not admit to signing the pages himself.
“I was unaware that by me filling in date and city cells as well as printing names of the signees after the fact, that I was committing a fraudulent act,” he said. “I had obtained greater than the number of signatures required, but in order to have the paperwork filled out properly, I do not have the time.”
It is not illegal for a petitioner to fill in the date and location for a signer, according to state election law.
Mr. Koons said he has not yet decided if he will run for office again, but will decide within the coming weeks. He did not return a phone call requesting further comment Thursday night.
In a statement, Rep. Stefanik’s campaign said Mr. Koons’ actions were an affront to election integrity and said Mr. Koons should be prosecuted as a criminal.
“This is a serious crime and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” the campaign statement reads.
According to John Conklin, director of public information for the state Board of Elections, Mr. Koons would have to turn in petitions with falsified information on them to have committed a crime. He has not submitted any petitions to date.