In an unusual move, freshman Suffolk County Legis. Monica Martinez withdrew as the Democratic candidate in the race for re-election, as her attorney acknowledged in court she did not have enough legitimate signatures to qualify for the ballot.
Martinez's lawyer, Thomas Garry, appearing Wednesday before state Supreme Court Justice Joseph Santorelli in Riverhead, said his client would stipulate she did not have the necessary 500 legal signatures to qualify for the ballot and would withdraw from the Democratic ballot line.
Richard Schaffer, Suffolk Democratic chairman, said later that Martinez will remain as the candidate for two minor parties -- the Working Families and Independence parties -- and that he expects her to win re-election.
Martinez declined to comment on the court case over her petitions, but said she will continue to run. "I'm going to go out and do what I do best, which is reaching out to my community, making a connection . . . and being a real person," she said.
Schaffer also said Democrats will press a separate lawsuit against Giovanni Mata, Martinez's challenger in the Democratic primary, and other Islip Democratic dissidents on the town ticket to knock them off the ballot. Republicans put forward no candidate in the legislative race.
Martinez (D-Brentwood) had filed 1,603 signatures at the county board of elections, 1,100 more than required. But in their objections, opponents asserted the candidate and her aides personally collected and witnessed petitions that were "replete with fraudulent dates and/or forged signatures" and that the entire petition should be thrown out.
Ivan Young, attorney for the dissidents, said he was not surprised by the outcome, citing the "possible criminal implications of making a false statement as a petition witness, a possible misdemeanor.
"If you allow someone to sign someone else's name, you're filing a false instrument," Young said.
Martinez opponents had planned to call as witness a handwriting expert, Roger Rubin, who did not testify. In an interview, Rubin said about 12 petition sheets witnessed by Martinez and her aides contained a total of 97 fraudulent signatures.
Schaffer would not comment about whether Martinez's petitions contained fraudulent signatures, saying only that the party did not have sufficient signatures to qualify for the ballot. When asked whether the party had failed Martinez, Schaffer replied, "Sometimes things just happen."
Former Suffolk Legis. Rick Montano, a Brentwood attorney who was ousted by Martinez two years ago in a bitter primary, called on Martinez to withdraw from the race altogether and allow Mata to become the lone candidate.
Frank Tantone, Islip Republican chairman, said Martinez "is still a formidable candidate," despite the loss of the Democratic ballot line. He also had no regrets not running a GOP candidate. "It's a Democratic district," he said. "It's their skirmish and I'm not getting in the middle."