U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Bianco set a July 11 hearing for Republican Philip Pidot’s lawsuit seeking to block state Sen. Jack Martins’ certification as the GOP candidate in the 3rd Congressional District and force a date for a party primary.
Bianco set the date after a nearly hourlong hearing in which attorneys for Martins objected to Pidot’s nominating petitions, and asked that Pidot’s case be dismissed as quickly as possible.
The suit comes after a ruling last week by State Supreme Court Justice Arthur Diamond that Pidot had more than the 1,250 signatures needed to qualify for the ballot. But the legal proceedings took so long that it was logistically impossible to get Pidot’s name on the ballot in time for Tuesday’s primary election.
Pidot, representing himself in court, maintains that he and 150,000 Republican voters would be disenfranchised from their right to choose from two GOP candidates in a primary.
Pidot said there is enough time to comply with the earlier federal court edict that set the June 28 primary election date to protect military votes.
Pidot said he believes a new primary could be held Aug. 23 or Aug. 30, and that the impact on local boards of elections would be minimal.
“Administrators would simply have to turn on the machines and put on election inspectors,” Pidot said. “The merits are overwhelmingly in favor a new vote so 150,000 voters can make a choice.”
John Ciampoli, lawyer for opponents of Pidot’s nominating petitions, said the challenger created his own problems by delaying the appeals process. Ciampoli also said his clients have the right to appeal the part of Diamond’s ruling that found Pidot had enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot.
Ciampoli said allowing a new election date would be “an incredibly bad thing” because it would “encourage others to sit on their hands and then go to federal court and say save me.”
Brian Quail, a lawyer for the state elections board said “federal authority may be lacking” to call a new election. He said candidates must be certified by Sept. 15 to ensure they satisfy federal court requirements that protect military ballots.
Joseph Nocella, Martins’ attorney, said Martins “wants a resolution as quickly as possible” because of the “enormous impact” a decision could have on Martins’ ability to move forward with his campaign for the November election.