The race for a minor party line for a New York state Assembly seat has pitted a man and his fiancee against each other.
It's not a lovers' quarrel though. Keith Hammond, one of two Democrats in the 107th District race, recruited his fiancee, Brenda Mahar, to run for the Working Families Party nomination as part of his election strategy, the Albany Times Union reports. Hammond is opposing fellow Democrat Cheryl Roberts for the Democratic nomination, and is trying to grab the Working Families nod under New York's cross-endorsement process.
The WFP state committee had put its support behind Roberts, and her name would have been the only one to appear on the WFP line on the primary ballot. Hammond would have had to run as a write-in candidate. Making it a three-way race necessitated an additional primary on Sept. 13, however, where all names will have to be written in, thereby leveling the playing field.
"The only reason I wasn't chosen was because I wasn't as well-connected and don't have the kind of money my opponent claims to have," Hammond said, according to the Times Union. "Can't we just have people vote for who they want? Wouldn't that be the fair way?"
Karen Scharff, Capital-District co-chair of WFP expressed regret at Hammond's response to her party's decision to back Roberts. "The WFP made its decision on which candidate we want to have on our line, and I think it's unfortunate there's another candidate who wants to contest that, but that's the primary process," she said.
"This is not the kind of thing we encourage candidates to do," said Rensselaer County Democratic Chairman Tom Wade, in response to Hammond's fiancee entering the fray.
Under New York's complicated election laws, six parties have access to their own lines on the ballot: Democrat, Republican, Independence, Green, Conservative and Working Families. Each endorsement could give thousands of votes to the candidate that is able to woo the party elite.
If Hammond and Mahar both end up on the general election ballot, the only ways to get off the ballot are to die, move out of state or be nominated for a state judgeship.
Prior to Hammond's decision, his fiancee had written a letter to the editor of The Register-Star, stating "As a Working Families member, I recently attended a Democratic Nomination meeting for the 107th Assembly District to show my support for my fiancee Keith Hammond and left extremely disappointed." She went on to say "When Keith’s supporters tried to nominate him at this meeting they were told no, the decision had already been made."
This is not the first time that a candidate for office in New York state has used this method to secure votes in a primary race. In 2010 it ended in failure for gubernatorial contender Rick Lazio, who instead of continuing to run for governor, and possibly pulling votes away from fellow Republican Carl Paladino, chose receive his party's nomination for state Supreme Court.