Congressman Lee Zeldin.

Congressman Lee Zeldin. Credit: James Carbone

Daily Point

Who’s responsible for Independence petitions?

It has now been over a month since the state Board of Elections denied the bid by GOP gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin to have the Independence Party ballot line for November’s election. 

The BOE found almost 13,000 invalid signatures — the vast majority of them photocopied — in the joint nominating application for Zeldin and four other statewide GOP candidates. That’s a considerable amount given that you need a total of 45,000 to earn the ballot line. 

The upshot is that Zeldin won’t have the Independence line to bolster his campaign. What’s less clear is who was responsible for the invalid Independence paperwork collected on his and the other candidates’ behalf. 

Despite talking a lot about election fraud in other races around the country and, hours after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, voting against certification of Joe Biden as president, Zeldin and his campaign have said little about what went wrong beyond attributing the mistakes to “an entirely grass-roots effort.” 

That hasn’t been enough for Zellnor Myrie, a Democrat and chair of the State Senate’s elections committee, who in August asked Albany District Attorney David Soares to investigate. Soares put out a statement saying the letter “is currently under preliminary review.”

One of Myrie’s big questions is: Who photocopied pages and misleadingly arranged them? The Times Union reported Monday that state GOP headquarters in Albany “served as a final hub” for the “dubious petitioning effort,” and other reports have suggested that various people and groups were involved with the petition process. 

That includes Long Island Loud Majority, whose much-circulated May Facebook post indicated that the pro-Trump group was part of the operation: “We need people to get Petitions signed to get Lee on the Independent Line,” the post said. 

Some four or five people from LILM did indeed pitch in, says group co-founder Kevin Smith, who in June was paid $600 by the Zeldin campaign for what is labeled as “Professional Services.” 

“But it wasn't those bad ones," Smith told The Point. He said the paperwork they handed in wasn’t photocopied, and the number of signatures obtained was far less than the number that were found to be invalid anyway. 

An indignant Smith said, “I genuinely have no idea" what happened, and said he has his own questions about the matter: “I want to know who thought they were going to get one over.”

— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Talking Point

What a 2019 vote means in 2022

Could the voice of those who oppose vaccine mandates make a difference in a contentious State Senate primary on Long Island?

A group called New York Teachers for Choice seems to hope so. The organization, made up of teachers and parents who oppose vaccine mandates, is backing Monica Martinez in her SD4 primary battle with Phil Ramos, the group said this week.

Teachers for Choice noted Martinez’s opposition to the state’s 2019 repeal of the religious exemption for vaccination requirements for children who want to attend school. 

“This is a major litmus test for New York Medical Freedom Fighters, far more important than political party,” the group’s statement said, noting that Ramos voted in favor of the religious exemption ban. 

“TFC would never support Ramos in any fashion,” the group said. 

Teachers for Choice isn’t alone. A PAC called New York Health Voters also is endorsing Martinez. John Gilmore, the PAC’s executive director, told The Point that the group is similarly endorsing candidates who voted in favor of retaining the religious exemption, and opposing those who voted to repeal it, “regardless of party on either side.”

Gilmore told The Point that he’d be announcing endorsements of candidates who weren’t in office in 2019 in time for the general election.

Despite Martinez’s religious exemption vote, she didn’t get support from some of the anti-vax and anti-mandate groups during her bid for a second term in 2020. That’s because she was running against now-State Sen. Alexis Weik, who has been an ardent opponent of vaccine mandates and hasn’t even disclosed whether she’s been vaccinated against COVID-19. But after redistricting, Weik will be running in SD8. The winner of the Ramos-Martinez primary instead will face Republican newcomer Wendy Rodriguez in the fall.

— Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

Pencil Point

FBI search

Credit: DER SPIEGEL/Patrick Chappatte

For more cartoons, visit www.newsday.com/nationalcartoons

Quick Points

All kinds of talk

  • A federal judge has ruled that Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina must testify in a Georgia probe of possible 2020 election interference by former President Donald Trump and his allies, thereby cementing the previously unthinkable — that Graham would have to be ordered to talk.
  • Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) again avoided answering a question about whether President Joe Biden should run again. There’s a lot of that going around these days — in both parties.
  • In an interview with Axios about the Mar-a-Lago raid, Texas Republican Rep. Dan Crenshaw said, “I’m impressed Democrats finally got us to say, 'Defund the FBI.’ That makes you look unserious when you start talking like that.” Does Crenshaw think this is the first time some colleagues have looked unserious the way they talk?
  • A West Babylon man with a criminal record, angered by being asked to undergo a background check when he tried to buy a gun at a Dick’s Sporting Goods, used a machete to attack three people at the store. Makes you wish they had background checks for buying machetes.
  • The Federal Aviation Administration says it will allow short-staffed Delta Air Lines to cut some flights this summer. As opposed to all the flights Delta cut recently without FAA permission.
  • Former President Donald Trump initially thought the FBI’s Mar-a-Lago records raid was a political coup for him. Then his mood reportedly darkened, probably when he realized this coup was going to end the same way the last one did.
  • Ohio Republican Rep. Mike Turner, talking about the Mar-a-Lago raid, said, “No one is above the law. Donald Trump’s not above the law and Attorney General Merrick Garland is not above the law, either.” There are no limits to whataboutism these days.
  • The Long Island Rail Road opened the first section of the new Third Track, 70 years after planning and debate on an expansion started. But don’t worry — if a new track arrives within 75 years, the LIRR considers it an on-time performance.

— Michael Dobie @mwdobie