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Mastic Beach trustees’ ballots valid, challengers’ are not, board says

Mastic Beach Deputy Mayor Bruce Summa is seen

Mastic Beach Deputy Mayor Bruce Summa is seen outside village hall on Monday, June 22, 2015, in Mastic Beach. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

The nominating petitions for both incumbent trustees in Mastic Beach have been ruled valid, while their challengers have been removed from the ballot.

The Suffolk County Board of Elections ruled that village trustee Elizabeth Manzella can appear on the March 15 ballot. Manzella, who is deputy commissioner at the Board of Elections, is campaigning on the New Horizons party line with trustee Bruce Summa, and her petitions used “Betty” instead of Elizabeth, which was the basis of the challenge.

Manzella recused herself from the board’s decision, officials said.

The Board of Elections also ruled that New Wave party trustee candidates Joseph Johnson and Darrin Harsch, both of whom lost election bids last year, didn’t meet the 100 signature threshold to get on the ballot and they were removed. Election law allows them to run as write in candidates.

Manzella, Summa, Johnson and Harsch are vying for two trustee seats.

“The objections [to Manzella] were found not valid. People are allowed to have a name that isn’t necessarily your legal name,” said Josh Price, senior assistant commissioner on the Republican side at the Board of Elections.

But some said that Manzella’s role as village trustee and deputy commissioner presented a possible conflict.

Johnson said he has filed a lawsuit in State Supreme Court in Central Islip challenging the Manzella ruling by the Board of Elections, and he is also challenging the ruling that he didn’t meet the required number of signatures to run for trustee.

Price said that the Board of Elections was served with court papers Wednesday morning and that a judge will listen to court arguments on Thursday.

“This shouldn’t have been reviewed by the BOE, it should have been decided by New York State,” Johnson said.

Village resident Michelle Wilkinson objected to Johnson’s and Harsch’s petition, charging that many of the 190 signatures were invalid.

New York State Election Law mandates a candidate must have at least 100 valid signatures from registered Suffolk County voters in order to run for village trustee.

Price, who said both the Republican and Democratic side at the Board of Elections reached the same decisions on the petitions, contacted the New York State Board of Elections but was informed county officials must make the decision.

Price said Suffolk County Board of Elections Commissioner Nicholas LaLota recused himself from the decision. And Manzella also recused herself, he said.

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