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Judge tosses petitions for Huntington Town Board candidate; nixes Democratic primary

Former Huntington Town Highway Superintendent William Naughton is

Former Huntington Town Highway Superintendent William Naughton is shown in this file photo from July 19, 2013. Credit: James Escher

There will be no Democratic primary for Huntington Town Board.

A state supreme court judge threw out petitions Tuesday from former town Highway Superintendent William Naughton because he had an insufficient number of valid signatures in his bid for the board.

The Suffolk County Board of Elections last week tossed petitions from another challenger, Andrew Merola of Huntington Station, after he was also found to have an insufficient number of signatures.

"There's no answer, this is just what happens," Naughton said Wednesday after acknowledging his primary challenge was over.

In order to get on the primary ballot for town board, a candidate must have submitted a petition with at least 1,000 signatures by July 9.

Naughton, who announced plans in June to run, had over 1,500 signatures, and Merola said he had 1,114.

Two longtime Democrats, Sherry Pavone and Ann Berger, filed objections to signatures on the petitions.

The board of elections looks for such things as incomplete signatures, the names of dead people, signatures of people who are not registered in the party, illegible signatures and fraud.

After a review, the board found Merola did not have enough valid signatures to get on the ballot.

"It's unfortunate that so much stuff occurs behind the scenes that most people are not aware of," said Merola, who said he decided not to appeal. "Far too often, we see backroom deals, courtrooms and lawyers being brought in that force the regular guy not to have a chance."

The board of elections found no fault with 1,005 of Naughton's signatures and could not rule on 65 others. Pavone and Burger then commenced a court action.

About a quarter of the way through the review of Naughton's petition, Judge Arthur Pitts had disqualified dozens of signatures, leaving Naughton with far fewer than 1,000.

Sandy Berland, husband of town board member Susan Berland and the attorney representing Pavone and Burger, said Naughton and his attorney asked that the review end. Naughton's attorney did not return a call for comment.

Pavone, of Northport, said the effort to force a primary "was bad for the Democratic Party; I'm very happy we were able to be successful."

Berger could not be reached for comment.

Susan Berland, of Dix Hills, and Keith Barrett, a Melville resident who works in the town's general services department, were endorsed by the town Democratic party in June.


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