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Brand: First-time Assembly candidate fighting to stay on the ballot

Michael Marcantonio has everything a local political leader could dream of in a first-time political candidate for the state Assembly.

Born in Northport, the Democrat has a law degree from prestigious Duke University and a job with a high-powered New York City law firm, Kirkland & Ellis. More importantly, he already has raised $107,000 — double the $47,000 that six-term Republican incumbent Andrew Raia has in his coffers.

“He’s obviously very real by the amount he has already raised,” said Rich Schaffer, Suffolk Democratic chairman. “He’s bright, a hard worker and represents the party well.”

Marcantonio, 31, who has taken a leave to campaign full time, has already assailed Raia as failing to fix the potential mess from a Long Island Power Authority lawsuit seeking a 90 percent reduction in its property taxes. Yet he is facing a major battle just to remain on the ballot.

Raia says he will file specific objections to Marcantonio’s candidacy at the Suffolk Board of Elections on Monday, claiming his opponent does not comply with the state constitution, which requires a state legislative candidate to be a state resident for five years and a district resident for 12 months before the election.

“He doesn’t meet the five-year requirement and doesn’t meet the one-year requirement, unless you believe a 31-year-old still lives at home with mommy when he has a perfectly good apartment where he lives with his girlfriend down the street from his office,” Raia said. He maintains Marcantonio really lives at 65 E. Second St. in Manhattan.

Raia also says Marcantonio, while registered, early on never voted in a New York general election and only decided to vote as a Duke student by registering in Durham, North Carolina, in 2012, when he canceled his New York voter registration. He voted in that state in 2012 and 2014. He did not register again in New York State until March 2016 so he could vote in the presidential primary and he did not vote in the general election.

“His New York residency did not start until that day he re-registered, and that means the soonest he would be eligible to run for state office is 2021,” Raia said. He also said he doubted Marcantonio’s sincerity in taking on LIPA: “He doesn’t pay property taxes in the school district or even pay a LIPA bill. But I do.”

Marcantonio called Raia’s objections “smoke and mirrors from a career politician, who sees a blue wave coming and is scared” because of his success in fundraising and the tireless campaign he’s waging.

“Are they really going to try throwing me off the ballot for voting as a student?” he asked. “The effect would be that he would be on the ballot unopposed. I think voters will take issue with that. People would be up in arms.”

Marcantonio also said the U.S. Supreme Court in Symm v. United States has protected the right of students to vote without losing their local residency, similar to those who are in the armed forces.

“As a lawyer for a big city law firm, I put in 80 hours a week, which is just a fact of life, so I keep an apartment in New York City,” he said, adding that Northport has always been his prime residence.

“No one is more Long Island than me,” he said. He noted that he also remains close to home because his mother suffers from Lyme disease.

Marcantonio would not be the first high-powered contender to be snagged in the byzantine nature of New York election law. In 2010, Regina Calcaterra, a corporate corruption litigator who later became Suffolk chief deputy county executive and headed a state corruption panel, was tossed from the ballot in a State Senate race. While she grew up in Suffolk and lived as an adult in New York City, the court found she also resided for part of the time in Pennsylvania during the five years before running.

Marcantonio, however, believes he will prevail because “the facts are different” than Calcaterra’s. And he added, “Trust me, the last person they are going to want to see in court is Mike Marcantonio.”


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