As part of its continuing effort to thwart what its leaders said was a Republican raid of the party, the Independence Party of Westchester succeeded in persuading a state judge to allow it to kick out 31 party members at the end of February.
But in the same decision, state Supreme Court Judge Robert DiBella refused to accede to the party’s request to remove nearly 4,000 other members, saying the party didn’t present enough evidence that each individual was not in sympathy with the party’s principles as required by state law. But the party has appealed the decision and will be back in court on Friday at the Appellate Division in Brooklyn.
“We’re seeking to get the judge overturned on the rest of them,” said Peter Tilem, the lawyer for the party.
Independence Party leaders have said the large number of new members of the Independence Party in 2012 and 2013 were the result of a deliberate plan by the Republican Party to take control of the party, remove the leadership and get the ballot line for Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino in his reelection last year. Some of the new members had clear ties to the county executive and his top lieutenants while others said they enrolled to try out an alternative to the major parties.
Astorino, a Republican now running for governor, lost the chance to get the party line in August when his primary election write-in bid was invalidated by Judge DiBella. DiBella ruled that the petitions were filed late and also agreed to disenroll six members of the Independence Party who filed the petitions, rendering them invalid. Astorino lost again on appeal.
In his gubernatorial campaign, Astorino has said he will not accept the Independence Party line because the party stands for only its own self-interest. He is calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to do the same.
Emboldened by the earlier win, the Independence Party leadership last fall brought both the state case to disenroll nearly 4,000 members and a federal case alleging an illegal raid on the party to control the outcome of the primary election. A pre-motion conference in the federal case is set for April 2.
Most of the 31 people removed from the party (who kept their registrations as unaffiliated voters) in the latest case said they had enrolled by mistake or agreed to being disenrolled.
Photo: Members of Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino’s campaign staff tried to disrupt a press conference at the White Plains federal courthouse in October announcing the Independence Party’s filing of a federal lawsuit alleging a raid on the Independence Party. Elizabeth Ganga/The Journal News