Congressional hopeful DuWayne Gregory said he’d back the winner of the contested Democratic primary with Liuba Grechen Shirley although his name could still be on November’s ballot on minor party lines.
But Gregory’s answer at a Democratic debate Monday night to a question whether the candidates would support the primary winner sparked criticism from Grechen Shirley and some of her supporters.
Asked for a commitment to support the winner of the Democratic primary on June 26, Gregory said some people would vote for him on the minor party lines.
“I’m endorsed by the Independence Party, the Women’s Equality Party, the Working Families Party. My name is going to be on the ballot,” Gregory said.
He continued, “I would hope that most of you will come behind the eventual winner, move forward, stay focused on what’s important and that’s defeating Peter King and taking back our Congress for Democrats.”
Gregory and Grechen Shirley are seeking the Democratic nomination in the 2nd Congressional District to challenge Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford).
Grechen Shirley said there were ways Gregory, if he loses the Democratic primary, could get off the ballot on the minor party lines. She accused him of threatening to withhold his support.
“What that means is that after the primary, if I win the primary, he won’t be coming behind us to support the campaign to unseat Peter King, which is our goal in November,” she said.
Grechen Shirley said she would support Gregory, presiding officer of the Suffolk County Legislature, if he wins the primary.
“The answer to that is 100 percent. If Legislator Gregory wins the primary I will 100 percent support him, because our goal is to work together to unseat Peter King,” she said.
In an interview Tuesday, Gregory said he would not campaign if he loses. If there’s a way to remove him from the minor party lines, he said, it’s up to party leaders. “I’m open to that,” he said.
He said the multiple lines he has in November put him “in the best position to run and win in November.”
Working Families Party executive director Bill Lipton said there’s disagreement within the party about whether Gregory could be removed from the ballot line.
“In the event that a candidate loses, there are legal mechanisms available for them to get off the line,” said Lipton. He would not say how that could happen.
Lisa Tyson, director of the Long Island Progressive Coalition and a member of the Working Families Party Long Island Regional Council, said there had been no discussions about moving Gregory off the line.
“When we endorsed DuWayne Gregory, the expectation is he’s on the line in November, regardless of the results of the primary,” she said. “We made our endorsement, a strong endorsement for DuWayne in November. He’s on our line.”
Frank MacKay, Independence Party Chairman, did not return calls for comment.
Under state election law, candidates who are attorneys can be removed from minor party lines after major party primaries by being nominated for judicial seats.