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Litigation Between Independent Party Factions Threatens Party’s Ballot Access For 2014

by Christine Stuart | Jul 29, 2014 12:00pm
(0) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Courts, Election 2014, Legal, Local Politics

The Independent Party has the ability to endorse a candidate for governor, but if two factions within the party can’t stop litigating each other or come to an agreement on a candidate, then no one will get the ballot line in November.

One faction of the party, led by John Dietter, of Danbury, recently filed another lawsuit against the other faction of the party, led by Mike Telesca, of Waterbury.

Av Harris, spokesman for the Secretary of the State’s office, said they will accept an endorsement, but if they receive a conflicting endorsement then they will ask the two factions of the party to settle the dispute.

However, that’s the problem. The two factions claiming ownership of the party have been fighting in court on and off for the past few years.

Thisis troublesome for the Republican gubernatorial candidates, who the Independent Party generally cross endorses. The impact of such a cross endorsement can be significant.

The Working Families Party has not made an endorsement this year, but in 2010 they endorsed Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, whose name appeared twice on the ballot. That same year, the Independent Party endorsed Tom Marsh, who received more than 17,000 votes. Republican Tom Foley, who only appeared on the Republican Party line, lost to Malloy by 6,404 votes.

“If Gov. Malloy was not allowed to be listed by the Working Families Party, I would have won the election,” Foley testified at a legislative hearing in 2013. Foley is again running for the Republican nomination for governor, and if he wins it, the lack of an Independent Party endorsement and accompanying additional ballot line could led to a result similar to 2010.

When a Democratic leader proposed legislation in 2013 in an effort to get rid of cross-endorsements, Sen. John McKinney, who is also seeking the Republican nomination for governor this year, called it a “power grab.” Sen. President Don Williams was the proponent of the bill, which had also included language that would have abolished use of the “independent” label in party titles.

At the time, Sen. Michael McLachlan, R-Danbury, explained that the only reason the Democratic majority included that change in the bill was because the Independent Party of Connecticut had received more votes in 2012 than the Working Families Party, a third party that traditionally cross-endorses Democrats.

“They realized that the Independent Party of Connecticut has run ahead of the Working Families Party and they want to neuter them by eliminating them,” McLachlan said.

The Democrat-controlled General Assembly eventually removed that language from the bill in 2013, and although the bill eventually passed in another form, the language against cross endorsement was also scrapped in the final version.

In the last statewide election more votes were cast on the Independent Party line than the Working Families Party line.

The latest lawsuit between the two factions within the Independent Party says that despite an adverse ruling from a Waterbury court in 2012, the defendants — led by Telesca — continue to make filings with the state elections enforcement commission relating to party registration and other regulatory issues. The plaintiffs — led by Dietter — argue that these conflicts will “serve to preclude the plaintiff Independent Party from effectively nominating candidates in the upcoming 2014 general election notwithstanding its legal entitlement to do so.”

Dietter is arguing that the defendants’ challenges to his leadership of the party continue to cause confusion about the party’s legitimacy.

Telesca and co-defendant Lawrence Depillo have been summoned to appear in Danbury Superior Court on Aug. 4 to prove why a temporary injunction should not be issued against them, according to court documents.

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