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With State Supreme Court Justice Edgar Walker due to rule Monday on whether long-shot candidate Zephyr Teachout qualifies for the Democratic primary ballot for governor, incumbent Andrew M. Cuomo's heavily favored campaign for a second term reaches an interesting passage.
Either way, the decision doesn't end the story line. One or two rounds of appeals are possible from the losing side, regardless of whether Walker finds Teachout met the five-year New York residency requirement to run. And if the Fordham Law School professor makes the ballot, Cuomo operatives could still choose to draw on the two-day trial late last week for campaign fodder against Teachout, 42, who attacked Cuomo in the recent tempest over his defunct anti-corruption commission.
On Friday, in Walker's Brooklyn courtroom, pro-Cuomo attorney Martin Connor had Teachout acknowledge on the stand that, on a form renewing her Vermont driver's license on June 13, 2011, she checked the box that deemed her a Green Mountain Stater. And on June 3, 2013, when she bought someone's used Honda for $4,500, she paid a 6-percent sales tax to Vermont as if a resident there.
Connor was arguing that these facts and others were "evidence of her intent," as a matter of the courts' election residency standard, "to not consider New York her full-time residence." Speaking hypothetically to the narrow legal point, Walker said from the bench, "she may have lied for purposes of tax avoidance, or whatever..." Connor replied that he'd take the statements "at face value" and wasn't accusing her of perjury.
Teachout, however, could make populist hay of what she was compelled to detail in court. She recalled Friday she arrived in New York in 2006 with "three or four suitcases and a lot of student debt." She lived in a handful of different places -- one with appliances in disrepair, part of what she called a "pretty typical experience."
Last week, after she called the suit a "fishing expedition," a Cuomo ally said: "New York State has a residency requirement to run for governor. The law matters. I would expect a [legal] scholar to appreciate that."
Sometimes in a Democratic primary, even a lopsided win can drive negative spin. In 2000 Mark S. McMahon, an city-based orthopedic surgeon, got 18 percent in the September primary against soon-to-be-U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. Her critics said it showed a problem with nearly 1 in 5 of her own party's voters. She was elected that November, with 55 percent.