Kabot Challenge Bounces Conservative Party Candidate From Primary Ballot

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The Suffolk County Board of Elections has thrown out the nominating petition of Conservative Party town supervisor candidate Howard Heckman III, clearing the way for a write-in candidate to capture the party line for the fall ballot.

Because Mr. Heckman’s petition was tossed out for not having enough valid signatures, following a challenge by Republican supervisor candidate Linda Kabot, there will be no Conservative Party supervisor candidate on the ballot during the September 10 primary election.

But because Ms. Kabot has filed an opportunity-to-ballot petition, registered Conservative Party members can still write in a candidate’s name. The name with the most write-in votes on primary day will be placed on the party line on the November general election ballot.

According to Southampton Town Councilman Jim Malone, the Conservative Party’s town leader in Southampton, the party’s executive committee is considering backing a write-in candidate and mounting a get-out-the-vote effort to counter Ms. Kabot’s own turnout drive. Mr. Malone said the party is disappointed in the Board of Election’s decision to toss Mr. Heckman’s petition and worries the decision may set a precedent that leads to future petition warfare, especially in small municipalities.

Ms. Kabot had challenged Mr. Heckman’s petition on the basis that several of the signatures on it were invalid because the people, including Mr. Heckman and his wife, had already previously signed her own Conservative Party nominating petition. Ms. Kabot’s petition was ruled valid by the Board of Elections, but Conservative Party Chairman Ed Walsh and the party’s executive committee refused to authorize it, blocking her from forcing a primary race.

“Linda Kabot and Marietta Seaman collected designating signatures for Kabot and even though those signatures were not authorized, they were used to knock out the Conservative Party’s chosen candidate,” Mr. Malone said this week, noting that Ms. Kabot had help from Ms. Seaman, a longtime Republican Party committee member. “That’s a scary precedent. If somebody wants to knock off their political opponent they can just go get the signatures first. In a small place like Shelter Island … all you have to do is get there first.”

Mr. Malone was nominated in 2009 to be the Republican Party’s supervisor candidate, even though Ms. Kabot, a Republican, was the incumbent supervisor at the time. The GOP party leadership rejected the committee’s choice and gave the nomination to Ms. Kabot to avoid a primary. Mr. Malone ultimately won election to the Town Council that year instead, and Ms. Kabot lost the supervisor’s chair to current supervisor Anna Throne-Holst.

Ms. Kabot has maintained that Mr. Heckman was a “straw-man candidate” from the start, meaning that he never intended to campaign for the post. She has alleged that his petitions were circulated by Mr. Malone and another Conservative party leader, and that she believes Mr. Heckman had intended to withdraw from the race to allow party leaders to choose a new candidate without having to seek petition signatures supporting that person.

Ms. Kabot said she suspected that some in the party were seeking to place Ms. Throne-Holst, an Independence Party member who has been elected to office three times with Democratic Party endorsements, on the Conservative Party ballot line. Conservative leaders have offered mixed endorsements of Ms. Throne-Holst, who has been seen as fiscally conservative and also pro-police unions, whose members make up a substantial segment of the Conservative Party county-wide.

With the nominating petition for Mr. Heckman thrown out, the Conservative Party will not have an opportunity to replace him on the ballot before the primary on September 10.

Ms. Kabot said this week she does not expect the party leadership to back Ms. Throne-Holst in a write-in bid, noting that Mr. Walsh had told Newsday recently that the supervisor was “too socially liberal” to win support from the Conservative Party. She said she is at a loss as to why the Conservatives have so staunchly opposed her at every turn.

“I don’t want to comment about why the Conservative Party leadership has chosen to besmirch my candidacy,” Ms. Kabot said. “I think my record as a Conservative stands for itself.”

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