ALBANY — New York’s highest court on Monday quashed what appears to be Republicans’ last chance to get a candidate on the ballot to challenge state Sen. John Brooks in a key Long Island district.
The Court of Appeals declined to hear a lawsuit in which Republicans tried to substitute Norman Sammut for Nick LaLota. That lets stand a midlevel court ruling disqualifying Sammut — meaning the GOP will have no candidate in the race unless it somehow gets a federal court to intervene, which is considered unlikely.
Monday’s decision appears to be the final chapter in a tangled tale to challenge Brooks (D-Seaford) in a district that covers parts of Nassau and Suffolk counties.
Republicans originally nominated LaLota, a Suffolk County elections commissioner. But the court disqualified him, ruling he couldn’t run for Senate because of an obvious conflict of interest — a candidate cannot also serve as a commissioner in charge of counting the votes.
LaLota said he was taking a leave of absence as commissioner, but the court ruled that didn’t remove the conflict.
Importantly, the court also disqualified the petitions the Republicans gathered to get LaLota on the ballot.
Republicans then sought to substitute Sammut, an attorney, for LaLota. But under New York’s election laws, once LaLota’s petitions were disqualified, the GOP had no avenue for installing Sammut.
Substitutions can occur only a legally nominated candidate declines the nomination or dies, the Appellate Division ruled in July. The Court of Appeals action upholds that decision.