Montano battles Islip Dems, primary opponent
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Suffolk Legis. Rick Montano (D-Brentwood) went to court Monday trying to stop his primary foe Monica Martinez from claiming she is the Islip Democratic committee's nominee or that she is using party money because he is the party's designated candidate.
Montano's lawsuit, filed in State Supreme Court in Riverhead, sought a temporary restraining order and an injunction not only against Martinez but also the Islip Democratic committee, the Bellone 2015 campaign committee and the treasurers of both Islip Democrats and Martinez's campaign funds.
State Supreme Court Justice Emily Pines rejected Montano's request for a temporary order but set a hearing Thursday before Acting Supreme Court Justice James F. Quinn in Central Islip on the lawmaker's request for a preliminary injunction.
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Thomas Garry, attorney for Martinez, said Montano's suit is without merit. "They are all over the place," he said. "I'm confident we can deal with this in an expedited manner." Maureen Liccione, an attorney for the Islip Democratic Committee, said they will move to dismiss the suit.
The lawmaker's legal broadside comes little more than two weeks before the Sept. 10 primary as Montano, in office for nearly a decade, is in a heated battle against Martinez, the sister of Tony Martinez, Babylon's deputy supervisor and co-chairman of County Executive Steve Bellone's transition team.
In his lawsuit, Montano says he was chosen unanimously at the Suffolk Democratic convention in May and his opponent and her workers have been misleading voters by claiming she has Islip Democratic Committee support. He said only the party's county committee can back legislative candidates and the Islip Democratic committee, in "clear contradiction of party rules," backed Martinez and improperly gave $30,000 to her campaign.
According to Montano's court papers, "Any direct or indirect support of Monica Martinez by the town Democratic committee is a violation of party rules and ultimately violates campaign finance limitations."
Montano's suit also alleges that Bellone 2015 gave $13,000 and the Babylon Democratic Committee gave $10,000 to the Islip Democratic committee, which immediately turned over the funds to the Martinez campaign in a "fraudulent scheme" to circumvent the election law, which would have barred direct contributions to Martinez beyond $1,000. The lawmaker also sued to block the Martinez campaign from using "pledge cards," claiming it amounts to "voter supression." Noting the Ninth District is made up of mostly minority voters, new to the election process, Montano's papers charge the cards are a "contrived scheme designed to manipulate voters into fraudulently believing that once they sign the pledge card they must vote for . . . Martinez and cannot change their minds."
Martinez, a political newcomer who is a Brentwood middle school principal, already has spent $65,000 on her campaign, much of it to collect 6,300 signatures, far more than the 500 she needed to qualify for the primary ballot. Montano had more than 1,600 signatures.
She has accused Montano of "absentee leadership" and refusing to serve as a legislative committee chairman; Montano in turn has maintained that Martinez has had no involvement in the community and had to hire more than two dozen operatives from outside the area to collect her signatures for her because she has no local support.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story gave the incorrect campaign donation limit in a primary. The correct limit is $1,000.