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Suffolk GOP moves to oust Brookhaven official from party

Kathleen Walsh, a Republican, is a Brookhaven Town

Kathleen Walsh, a Republican, is a Brookhaven Town councilwoman representing the 3rd District. (June 28, 2011) Credit: David Pokress

Suffolk Republicans Thursday filed suit in State Supreme Court in Riverhead to oust Brookhaven Town Board member Kathleen Walsh from their political party.

Walsh is running for re-election on the Democratic line, and Republicans filed a show-cause order signed by Justice Joseph Farneti. A court date has been set for Tuesday before Justice Gerard Asher.

The Republican legal effort to remove Walsh comes as the Suffolk Board of Elections is weighing a challenge to the validity of Walsh's petitions to run a GOP primary against Republican town board designee Kevin LaValle, brother of Suffolk GOP chairman John Jay LaValle.

Jesse Garcia, Brookhaven GOP chairman, said the party is alleging Walsh's petitions are riddled with fraud and were largely collected by members of the Civil Service Employees Association, a union in which Walsh's husband, William, is a leader.

"She left the party, she ran against the Republican candidate for highway superintendent earlier this year and is now running on the Democratic line. She clearly is not in sympathy with the goals and philosophy of the Republican Party," John Jay LaValle said.

Walsh did not return calls for comment, but in the past has maintained her petitions are legitimate and that the GOP abandoned her. She suggested she has the support of many grassroots Republicans.

While Walsh is registered as a Republican, she has switched her voter registration to the Independence Party. Because the change does not take effect until after Election Day in November, she is eligible to run in a GOP primary.

Walsh, John Jay LaValle said, is trying to take advantage of a "loophole in state law which allows someone to use the old party inappropriately" by running a primary. "We are just trying to keep the Republican Party legitimate and make sure the people running on our line share our principles and ideals."

The removal effort, rarely invoked, is permitted under election law after a party hearing and authorization from a judge.

A Republican committee made up of party vice chairman Anthony Pancella, party attorney Steve Losquadro and Huntington GOP vice chairman David Riley held two days of hearings in June. Garcia said party members testified against Walsh, who did not attend.

The Suffolk Conservative Party in 2009 went to court and removed more than 1,400 police officers and their relatives who enrolled in the minor party.

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