By ASHLEY HELMS
As the primaries for the November election approach, New Rochelle Democrat and county legislator candidate Mary Jo Jacobs has failed on an attempt to invalidate all 159 county Independence Party petition signatures collected by incumbent Legislator Sheila Marcotte, an Eastchester Republican. The complaint alleged Marcotte signees were not properly sworn in by a notary.
Though the Board of Elections determined that almost all of Marcotte’s petition signatures, challenged in Jacobs’ July 29 complaint, were valid, the controversy sparked some bad blood between the two candidates. The primary scheduled for Sept. 10 between Marcotte and Jacobs is still set to continue.
Jacobs and Marcotte are vying for the legislator seat in District 10, which represents Eastchester, Tuckahoe and portions of New Rochelle. Marcotte currently holds the seat and, though she was not endorsed by the Independence Party this year, she collected more than 71 signatures from registered party voters in the district in order to primary Jacobs, who received the party’s endorsement.
Tajian Jones, an executive assistant at the county Board of Elections, said that four of Marcotte’s signatures were shown to be invalid because of discrepancies regarding party registration and signers not verified as District 10 residents by name and address.
“The petition still remains valid; the evidence was not sufficient enough to invalidate,” Jones said.
Jacobs said she was advised by her legal counsel to send Marcotte’s petition to the Board of Elections because the sheet was not filled out properly. Jacobs said information on the notary and Independence Party signature sections were not filled out correctly.
The Democratic candidate said if a petition carrier is not a member of the political party for which they are carrying petitions, and there isn’t a witness from the party present either, a notary can be used to certify the legality of the petition signatures.
“The petitions themselves were not completed to the letter of the law,” Jacobs said.
Regarding the notary, Marcotte said Jacobs’ complaint stated that none of the petition signers were sworn in properly by the notary.
A private investigator from New Rochelle-based Capuano Investigators went through the district and asked residents if they were sworn in or not, according to Marcotte. Many of the residents approached the incumbent to tell her that they were questioned and verified that they had been sworn in. Marcotte said the investigator also went to her house and questioned her husband and children.
“In all of my years of public service, I have never seen such a despicable attempt to prevent a candidate from participating in an election and not letting the voters decide,” Marcotte said.
But Jacobs said she had no idea about a private investigator going door-to-door in the district.
“If that did indeed happen, I don’t know anything about that,” Jacobs said.
Democrats across the county have been endorsed by the Independence Party, suggesting there may be credence to the belief of some critics that the party’s decision to endorse those candidates stems from bad blood between party chair Guilio “Doc” Cavallo and County Executive Robert Astorino, a Republican.
Astorino’s campaign has stated that Cavallo, who endorsed New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson, the Democratic candidate for county executive, did so out of spite when Astorino refused to grant county jobs to people in the Independence Party who were close to Cavallo.