Salem knocks Petsas off ballot after court battle

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POUGHKEEPSIE – Council Chair Sarah Salem has won the court case that sought to prevent fellow Democratic Councilman Chris Petsas from running for Salem’s seat on the Republican ballot line.  Dutchess County Acting Supreme Court Judge Michael Hayes issued his decision late Friday afternoon.

Petsas ran in a three-way Democratic primary in an attempt to unseat Salem, who is seeking re-election to the councilperson-at-large seat.  Republican Jenna Liguori had circulated petitions and had secured the Republican ballot line to run for the at-large seat in November.  Liguori moved out of town shortly after securing the Republican nomination.  The GOP then named Petsas as the replacement candidate, seeking to have a race between Salem and Petsas in November.

Salem, through attorney Michael Treybich petitioned the court to nullify the replacement.  Treybich argued that documents naming Petsas as the replacement were not filed within the timelines established by state law.

The Republicans informed the Dutchess County Board of Elections that Petsas was the replacement candidate by filing documents on August 20.  A Certificate of Authorization needed to be filed with the board of elections by September 3.  The Republican committee was made aware of the issue on August 26 and August 30.  They failed to file the authorization document until September 8, past the deadline.

After hearing arguments earlier this week, Judge Hayes ruled in favor of Salem.  The last paragraph of the 16-page decision says “Dutchess County Board of Elections is enjoined from placing the name of Christopher Petsas on the ballot for the November general election for City of Poughkeepsie Council Member At-Large”.

On Friday evening Petsas told Mid-Hudson News that he did not agree with the decision.  “I am disappointed.  Sarah Salem has used the court to disenfranchise voters for the upcoming election by not giving them a choice at the polls.”  Asked if an appeal was possible, Petsas said, “We are reviewing the decision we just received and are exploring our options.”

Salem’s attorney lauded the decision. “When the Republican nominee left the county, the Republican committee failed to timely file the required paperwork to substitute a new candidate, the Court enforced the law and removed Mr. Petsas from the ballot.”

Republican Committee Chairman Michael McCormack did not respond to a request seeking comment.