Conservatives Tossed Party's Legal Challenges Go Up In Smoke By Michael R. Caputo

Technical mistakes today doomed a series of Erie County Conservative Party petition challenges designed to hold off ballot fights in key towns, as County Supreme Court Justice John Michalek ruled outsiders may compete in the party's primary.

The results of the Conservative Party endorsement process dissatisfied some County candidates. As a result, six collected Conservative signatures to run as write in candidates. In the end, opportunity to ballot (OTB) petitions were submitted from Boston, Marilla, Orchard Park, Amherst, Buffalo, and Lackawanna.

As with any minor party with smaller membership, a fairly low number of Conservative signatures are required to secure the line or challenge the party favorite. Buffalo Mayor candidate Sergio Rodriguez only needed 63 signatures to qualify to run an OTB write-in campaign. He collected 120 and seemed set to challenge Conservative Party-endorsed Byron Brown after the mayor's operation only managed to cut that down to 76.

Brown's petition operation tried to block Rodriguez by collecting 500 signatures out of 1,100 registered Conservatives in the city. That was remarkable work, but they needed to disqualify a baker's dozen more of Rodriguez's signatures.

Clearly, the Conservative Party had to find another way to defend their endorsement candidates. Enter the lawyers, including Erie County Conservative chair Ralph Lorigo. They employed an arcane but legit mandate that notaries who circulate challengers' petitions must take an extra step with petition signers: they must be sworn.

Mind you, nobody does this. Ever. But the Conservatives took this, service questions and other technical issues before Justice Michalek today to knock out Rodriguez, Weinstein, Pat Keem, and Bob Anderson - and they lost every single one.

On an aside, Jeff Bochiechio - he of recent Comptroller's Office scandal - was behind a gambit to beat back the Conservative Party's technical legal challenge. Apparently, many of the Conservative filings did not have a 'verification page'. Obscure, again - but Bochiechio's move played an important role in allowing Rodriguez and others to challenge party orthodoxy on September 10th.

This is a big victory for Sergio Rodriguez, who thinks he can effectively communicate his conservative ideals to Buffalo's registered conservatives and snatch the line from Mayor Brown. It was also a good day for Barry Weinstein, Pat Keem and Bob Anderson, all who were denied the Conservative line.

No word on whether the party will appeal.

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