Stephen Burke was optimistic going into a hearing at the state Supreme Court in Albany Thursday.
He was there to appeal a decision by state Board of Elections officials to disqualify him from a Democratic Party primary in New York's 21st Congressional District. The councilman for the St. Lawrence County town of Macomb wants to run for a higher office.
"Hopefully the people will be given a choice for who will represent them on the Democratic line," Burke told the Enterprise in a phone interview. "We're just waiting for the judge to appear."
An hour later, his optimism was dashed when the judge tossed his case out of court.
"The judge dismissed everything," Burke said. "I'm not on the ballot."
So there will be no primary for the Democrats. Aaron Woolf, a documentary filmmaker and Brooklyn grocery store owner who lives in Elizabethtown and Manhattan, will represent the party in the Nov. 4 general election.
Also struck from the ballot recently was Donald Hassig, a Green Party candidate and environmental activist, whose petitions were received too late to be allowed to enter a primary against Glens Falls baker Matt Funiciello.
Now the only primary on June 24 will be between two Republicans: Watertown investor and past GOP nominee Matt Doheny, and Elise Stefanik of Willsboro, a former staffer of President George W. Bush and Rep. Paul Ryan.
Burke in court
Burke's hearing was held at 1:30 p.m. Thursday in front of Supreme Court Justice Kimberly A. O'Connor. He was represented by James L. Monroe, an attorney from Canton. A lawyer representing Jason Clark, the petitioner who challenged Burke's signatures, was also present. Clark was not.
Burke said his case was dismissed because of a procedural matter. O'Connor was not available for comment Thursday. An official in O'Conner's office confirmed the case was dismissed but did not provide more information.
Burke was thinking about appealing the decision but decided against it.
"We have to go to the court of appeals or just forget about it," Burke said. "It's going to be a no-go."
Burke was disqualified from the primary ballot on April 30 after election commissioners, comprised of two Republicans and two Democrats, removed 175 signatures from his petition, leaving him below the required 1,250. He had submitted a petition with 1,291 signatures.
Clark, a Democratic member of the St. Lawrence County Board of Legislators, objected to 380 of Burke's signatures, according to Monroe.
"One person invalidated 1,291 Democrats from their choice in the primary," Burke said.
Burke said Clark was affiliated with Woolf, a claim Clark denied.
"The bottom line is, if people want to run for office in New York, there are rules they have to follow," Clark told the Enterprise. "He doesn't follow them."
Woolf sees momentum
"I am excited by the momentum of the campaign," Woolf responded by email. "Having received nearly three times the number of signatures to qualify for the Democratic ballot, and having obtained more than twice the number of signatures to make the Working Families Party ballot, it is clear that the residents of the 21st Congressional District are excited about this campaign."
Woolf was endorsed this week by Rep. Paul Tonko, a Democrat from New York's 20th Congressional District. The pair toured small businesses together in Johnstown and Gloversville.
"At a time when Washington is so divided, we need more people like Aaron who will work with both parties to find solutions to the challenges we face instead of using those problems to drive us further apart," Tonko wrote in a press release.
Woolf was previously endorsed by the man he hopes to succeed, retiring Rep. Bill Owens, a Democrat from Plattsburgh, who is campaigning with him today at small businesses in Saratoga, Warren and Washington counties. Woolf is also the unanimous choice of the Democratic county chairs.
Burke entered the race because he felt Woolf was not a strong choice to represent the party. He said he had no comment when asked if he would endorse Woolf in the future.