A judge has ruled against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's (D) bid to remove challenger Zephyr Teachout from the Democratic primary ballot, arguing lawyers for the governor failed to prove Teachout did not meet the state's constitutional residency requirements.
The ruling, announced Monday, comes as a blow to Cuomo, who is hoping to avoid participating in a primary debate before the Sept. 9 vote.
Teachout supporters previously dismissed the "frivolous" lawsuit, which sought to disqualify her from the ballot on the grounds she did not live in the state for the past five consecutive years -- a requirement for gubernatorial candidates.
"It is evident that since June 2009, Ms. Teachout has clearly ‘lived’ in New York, as that term is commonly understood, in order to pursue her career as a Fordham professor,” Judge Edgar Walker stated in his decision.
Cuomo had previously defended the lawsuit as a means to ensure candidates were adhering to the state constitution.
“The Democratic Party is a party of primaries. And we are a nation and a state of laws, right?” Cuomo said. “So there are laws that have to be complied with. If she complied with the law, then there will be a primary. One of the laws is, to run in a New York race you have to be a New Yorker, which is sort of a common sense law. So that’s what it’s all about.”
Last week, Teachout told a small group of supporters the residency challenge was typical of Cuomo's "bullying" tactics and was nothing more than an attempt to silence her campaign.
Prior to news of Walker's decision, a source told The New York Daily News that Cuomo was "highly unlikely" to participate in a debate even if Teachout survived the lawsuit.
Although relatively unknown, Teachout has gained support in the wake of allegations that the governor's office routinely meddled with the Moreland Commission, a panel the governor himself created to fight corruption. The claims spurred U.S. Attorney in Manhattan Preet Bharara to issue a stern warning of an investigation into Cuomo's handling of the commission.
Cuomo maintains a strong lead against Republican challenger Rob Astorino, the Westchester County executive, according to a poll released Monday. The poll found 58 percent of likely voters would vote for the governor's re-election, while only 28 percent would vote in favor of Astorino.