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Challenge in Sag Harbor Could Reduce the Field

Posted on 20 May 2010

Last week, just minutes before the deadline, Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees candidate Ryan Horn filed specific objections against signatures on incumbent trustee Robby Stein and Sag Harbor Party candidate Bruce Stafford’s petitions to run against Horn for two seats on the village board this June.

If the Suffolk County Board of Elections agrees with Horn’s objections Stafford and Stein’s names could be removed from the June 15 ballot.

“It’s not as common in village elections because village races tend to be unopposed,” said Horn on Tuesday of contesting the signatures. Horn said his intention was to get “clarification from the board” as he feels the rules he, and all candidates, are required by law to follow in collecting signatures were not followed to the letter by his fellow candidates.

“I don’t want to imply any candidate was anything other than careless,” said Horn, adding he is not trying to accuse Stafford or Stein of trying to do something untoward, but that the standards for collecting signatures were not met as he sees it.

“State law mandates it needs to be in a certain format and it is a pretty low threshold of what it has to be,” said Horn. “These were nowhere near what I was told the standard was or what it should be from my own research.”

Horn filed objections against 85 of Stafford’s 124 signatures and against 45 of Stein’s 70 signatures.

Objections included signatures that did not match the same signature on another petition, incorrect or absent dates next to the signature, a lack of street designation like “road” or “lane,” the incorrect spelling of “Sag Harbor,” a missing house number, misspelled road names, improperly dated witness statements and residents not signing with the address they have registered with the board of elections or signatories not registered to vote in the Village of Sag Harbor.

Horn also objects to flawed witness statements on both candidates’ petitions, the fact that “Sag Harbor” was spelled wrong in Stafford’s party name, that “Robby Stein” and not Stein’s party “The Windmill Party” was used as Stein’s party line and with both candidate’s omitting “Sag Harbor, New York” after their place of residence. Those objections, in his form filed with the village and the board of elections, led Horn to argue that Stafford and Stein have zero acceptable signatures when 50 are required to run for office.

Horn said his intention is not to deprive village residents the opportunity to choose the next two trustees, and he hopes to campaign – regardless of the board of election’s decision – on issues, not petitions for candidacy.

On Monday, both Stein and Stafford said no matter what the board of elections decide, they plan to move forward campaigning and are considering all their options, including a write-in campaign, should Horn be successful in getting their names removed from the ballot.

“He is not looking at merit, but technicalities,” said Stein. “I am sure by the letter of the law, he might have a case, but my feeling is this is not someone who has been at a board meeting in my tenure and I am not sure at this point what his motives are except to get on the board. I hope the election committee lets the Sag Harbor voters decide and if they don’t I am not intending to say, ‘Okay, I quit.’ I would hope people would write us in.”

Stein and Stafford also questioned whether Horn will be able to work well with others on the board if elected.

“Honestly, this is the kind of thing that makes you wonder how you are going to get other people to serve if this is what they have to go through,” said Stein, adding the 45 signatures Horn is contesting are in fact all signatures of village residents.

“I was really surprised a local boy, advertising himself as born and bred here would challenge local people like this and create a sense that the voters of Sag Harbor are not worthy or trustworthy to say they signed a petition,” said Stafford. “This is a small village. This is not a presidential race. But I think it shows people who he is and who I am — I never would have thought for a second to do this.”

Stafford and Stein, while running under different parties, praised each other this week and Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride once more publicly supported their candidacy.

“I think Robby has done a tremendous amount of good work on the board,” he said. “And I think Bruce would fit right in.”

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