Last week, Democrat Regina Calcaterra, bowing to two adverse court decisions, decided to withdraw from the race against Sen. Kenneth LaValle. Her stated goal was to allow the legally designated committee on vacancies -- including Suffolk chairman Richard Schaffer -- to replace her with candidate Jennifer Maertz, a Brookhaven Democrat who's been working with her campaign.

But we're hearing that the Republican commissioner in Suffolk is objecting to the transfer of the petitions Calcaterra filed to Maertz with the argument that those were ruled void. Dems say this is going to court.  They note that Calcaterra -- ruled off the ballot on the basis of a gap in her state residency at one point in the last five years -- was not turned aside for bad petititions. Also, they argue they have the right to run a substitute candidate when the designee drops out. Maertz and her campaign say this is nothing short of the Republicans trying to ensure that LaValle runs unopposed as he did in 2006 and 2008 and keep voters from having any choice.

To an observer, the weird logic here seems to be that if the Democrats need to replace Calcaterra with another candidate, they can't, because Calcaterra's been knocked off the ballot and needs to be replaced. Meanwhile, Democrat Greg Fischer -- whose initial challenge of Calcaterra's residency seems so far to be nicely working in favor of his declared nemesis LaValle -- is still officially seeking to get himself on the 1st S.D. ballot by appealing an adverse court decision based on purportedly late filing of his own petitions.  

Here's Maertz's statement:

Jennifer Maertz, D-Rocky Point, the Democratic and Working Families candidate for state Senate for the First Senatorial District, today wrote to Ken LaValle calling on him to tell supporters to end sure-to-fail legal action aimed at preventing voters from having a choice this year.

Maertz told LaValle that Democratic Party officials learned that his supporters will again head to court next week to begin asking that the 34-year incumbent receive judicial protection from having to face an opponent in this year’s election.

“Ken, you should know better,” Maertz wrote.

“Since you were a member of the very state Senate that approved the current Election Law, and you know full well that political parties may designate alternate candidates if an initial candidate withdraws, I am calling on you to inform your supporters and their attorneys that they simply cannot win this time, and that they need to stop clogging our court system in an attempt to stop First Senatorial District voters from exercising their democratic right to a choice in this election.”

LaValle has not had an opponent since 2006. In 2008, half of all voters who cast a ballot for president simply chose not to vote for anyone for the First Senatorial District, where LaValle's was the only name on the ballot.

On Saturday, Maertz formally kicked off her campaign with a rally at her campaign headquarters in Middle Island, N.Y., with dozens of supporters. She was officially designated the Democratic and Working Families last week.