Riverhead’s four-term Republican Supervisor Sean Walter last week lost his first electoral battle of the current campaign season when he was knocked the Independence Party primary ballot.
The decision by state Supreme Court Justice Joseph Santorelli will give Democratic challenger, Laura Jens-Smith the minor party ballot line in November. Jens-Smith also has the backing of the Women’s Equality and Working Families Party lines.
Town Democrats objected to Walter’s petitions, which had 67 signatures — six more than the minimum required. The court ruled that eight of Walter’s signers — three of them collected by Walter himself — were ineligible to sign, said Larry Silverman, attorney for Democrats.
The possibility of a minor party primary arose because Independence Party officials allowed Walter and Jen-Smith to battle it out in the Sept. 12 vote. Jens-Smith had collected 138 signatures to qualify for the ballot and her petitions were not challenged.
“It’s an unfortunate turn of events,” said Walter, who said he normally collects at least double the number of signatures needed. He said he and another supporter relied on a third person who didn’t gather their share. Walter also has the Conservative Party line.