Objections have been filed against Matthew F. Putorti’s petitions to appear on the Democratic primary ballot in June.
Jason Clark, a leader in the St. Lawrence County Democratic Party and a supporter of Matt Castelli, another Democratic candidate for Congress in NY-21, submitted a general objection to Putorti’s nominating petitions to the state Board of Elections Tuesday.
In New York, candidates who want to appear on the ballot need to circulate petitions from their local party’s voters. In the 21st Congressional District, candidates needed to turn in petitions with 1,250 valid signatures from voters who are registered and active within the district.
Despite his position with the St. Lawrence County party committee, Clark said he’s making these objections of his own accord, with a few individuals assisting him.
“There were some inconsistencies with some of the pages that were filed,” Clark said. “That warranted further investigation.”
Clark said he can’t provide more detail on what those inconsistencies are until he and his team finish their investigation. He has until Thursday to file those specific objections with the Board of Elections.
“The few of us that are kind of going through and scrubbing the signatures, we’re still sort of evaluating that,” he said.
Putorti, for his part, said he’s confidant his petitions are valid and will be accepted. He said he turned in more than double the required 1,250 signatures on his petitions.
“I am grateful to the thousands of people across the district who signed them,” he said in a statement. “I am, however, disappointed but unsurprised that a county party leader has issued this frivolous challenge. Clark and some of his fellow party bosses have long been trying to force me out of the race and deny voters the choice in selecting the best candidate to take on Elise Stefanik.”
Despite being the first mainstream Democratic candidate to announce his campaign for NY-21, and being the biggest fundraiser in the Democratic field until last quarter, Putorti is not the party’s preferred candidate. Castelli, a former CIA officer and counterterrorism official for the Obama and Trump administrations, has garnered the support of every county party in the district, either from the local party chair or the committee itself. He’s noticed a strong bump in fundraising as well, and has since outpaced Putorti in quarterly fundraising amounts.
Putorti, an openly gay man, has alleged homophobia and sexism in the ranks of NY-21’s Democratic party, and has long accused the party of trying to stifle a primary election.
On Tuesday, Putorti called on Castelli to condemn Clark’s objections and call on him to withdraw them.
“To Matt Castelli, I’d just ask, ‘What are you so afraid of?’” he said.
Castelli’s campaign did not return a request for comment by press time.
Clark said he’s acting on his own, and while he said he has long believed that Castelli is the best chance the Democrats have at beating Congresswoman Elise M. Stefanik, his objection to Putorti’s petitions isn’t about that.
“If the petitions weren’t filed properly, or timely as dictated by law, that’s something to be concerned about,” he said. “If you’re talking about a potential candidate for a member of Congress, filing petitions is the basic block of the election.”
He said if Putorti’s petitions don’t satisfy all the legal requirements, that shows he’s not the right pick for Congress.
Clark said anything Putorti has to say about the objections can be directed to him directly, not to Castelli.
“If he has something to say to Jason Clark, he can say it to Jason Clark directly,” he said.
If Putorti’s petitions are invalidated, he will not appear on the June ballot and there will be no Democratic primary for the Congressional race in NY-21; Castelli will go on to the general election immediately against Congresswoman Stefanik.