A primary election for the Democratic Party line in the race for the Huntington Town Board has been squashed.
The campaigns of former Highway Superintendent William Naughton and Huntington Station resident Andrew Merola — who were vying for the line against incumbent Councilwoman Susan Berland and running mate Keith Barrett and hoping to win in a primary election — came to a halt earlier this week after a number of signatures on their candidate designating petitions were rendered invalid.
Naughton lost a challenge waged by two committee Democrats in state Supreme Court and the Suffolk County Board of Elections ruled a number of signatures on Merola’s petition invalid.
Signatures may be deemed insufficient for several reasons, including whether or not a person is a registered Democrat, or registered to vote and more. Candidates need 1,000 valid signatures to get on the ballot, and those petitions were due July 9.
Merola submitted 1,097 signatures, Naughton garnered 1,552, Berland and Barrett, who were on the same petition, collected and submitted 2,600 signatures, according to Anita Katz, the Democratic commissioner at the BOE.
Several Democrats filed objections to Naughton’s and Merola’s. The BOE reviewed Merola’s petition and ruled that a swath of signatures did not count, bringing his total count below 1,000. In Naughton’s case, two Democrats, Sherry Ann Pavone, a Northport resident, and Anne Berger, of Huntington, filed a lawsuit challenging the petition’s signatures under election law. Sandy Berland, Councilwoman Berland’s husband, represented the two pro bono, he said.
After the judge reduced Naughton’s signature count below 1,000, the former highway superintendent bowed out, Sandy Berland said.
“He made the judgment to end at that point,” the attorney said. “And of course we couldn’t end unless he agreed not to take an appeal.”
Naughton’s campaign declined to comment on Friday.
Merola didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment on Friday, but he took to Facebook to air his frustrations.
“Unfortunately, both myself and Bill Naughton have been forced off the ballot, thanks to Susan Berland and her husband deciding that they know better then the citizens of the Town of Huntington,” he wrote. “Instead of giving the voters a choice on who they’d like to represent their interests, Susan Berland has made that decision for you. We should have had four choices on [Sept. 10], and now, we won’t even have a vote.”
Sandy Berland, however, pointed out that petitions require valid signatures on them that abide by election law. He noted there’s a legal process in place to pursue challenges to those signatures.
In an interview this week, Susan Berland said she was pleased with the results.
“Keith Barrett and I are the designated candidates from the Democratic party,” she said. “We went through the process. We screened. We appealed to the Democratic membership and we got the nomination. I am proud to continue to represent the Democrats, and thankful that the Democratic party fended off any challenges to their designations.”