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GOP candidate Grant Lally sent an e-mail blast Monday announcing that the New York Board of Elections certified him as winner of the tight race against Stephen Labate for New York’s 3rd Congressional District Republican nomination -- but the declaration came as news to state board of election officials, who said they have
no role in certifying the race’s results not certified the results.
In Monday's press release Lally’s campaign wrote: “After completing the count of over 500 absentee ballots in New York's 3rd congressional district, New York's Board of Elections is certifying Grant Lally as the winner for the Republican nomination.”
“That was shocking,” New York Board of Elections spokesman Thomas Connolly told Newsday in a phone interview Tuesday.
Connolly said the job of certifying the results rests with the board of elections for Nassau, Suffolk and New York City, which cover the district that spans northeastern Queens and much of Nassau and Suffolk’s North Shore. It’s not until September that the state board gets involved with certifying the names on the ballot for the general election, Connolly said.
Last week, the three board of elections began counting absentee ballots in the tight race. Lally, a Mineola attorney who worked for George W. Bush during the 2000 Florida recount, was ahead of Labate, a Deer Park financial planner and Iraq War veteran, by 110 votes cast during the June 24 primary.
Labate did not concede on election night, noting there were still more than 580 absentee ballots to be counted throughout the district.
Lally campaign spokesman Tom Hirth said the campaign sent out the news release under the assumption that the results had to be certified 14 days after the election, and believed their lead was formidable enough that the race would be certified in Lally's favor.
Asked why the campaign didn’t wait until the certification process was complete to make an announcement, Hirth said: “We were just excited. Our unofficial count put us up by 20 votes. We wanted to tell our supporters we thought we had won.”
Nassau Board of Elections Chief Clerk Bonnie Garone said Monday that the county’s results were still unofficial, adding that there are still 19 contested absentee ballots at play in Nassau. Garone said the unofficial count of absentee ballots shows Labate with 168 votes to Lally’s 115.
New York City Board of Elections unofficial results show Labate ahead with 58 votes to Lally’s 29 votes, said Ellen Raffaele, an administrative associate for the board's Queens office. Raffaele said there were no contested ballots in Queens.
The Suffolk Board of Elections did not immediately respond to phone messages Tuesday.
Last Wednesday, New York Supreme Court Judge Arthur M. Diamond ordered all contested ballots be preserved and scheduled a follow-up court hearing for this Wednesday after Lally’s campaign filed a lawsuit seeking to consolidate the disputed ballot process from three judges reviewing each county’s ballots, to one judge.
Lally planned on filing a motion Tuesday to discontinue the hearings, Hirth said.
“After looking through the counting process it was fair . . . we see no reason to continue with the lawsuit,” Hirth said.
Labate campaign spokeswoman Elizabeth Hagan blasted Lally’s campaign for “falsely proclaiming” certified results.
"Once again, Grant Lally is jumping the gun in declaring victory as we have 25 votes that are yet to be counted,” Hagan said in a news release. “Furthermore, Lally is falsely proclaiming that the New York State Board of Elections has certified the election. Declaring oneself a winner doesn't make it so. The 25 voters whose ballots have yet to be counted deserve to have their voices heard. The vote is razor thin and we owe it to the voters to ensure that not only were their votes counted, but counted correctly.”
Earlier in the primary campaign, Lally sent out an e-mail announcing he received the endorsement of Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano. Mangano aides said the Republican county executive never issued an endorsement in the race. Lally later said a campaign aide "jumped the gun" in sending the e-mail.
Todd Valentine, Republican Co-Executive Director of the New York Board of Elections said the board does play a role in certifying the results, but the certification would come at some point in August or September. He said unlike the general election where the State Board of Canvassers meet to vote on the results, in primary elections the task is designated to the board's bi-partisan co-executive directors.
"We do certify the results, we haven't done so yet," Valentine told Newsday in a phone interview Thursday.