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Justice rules for Dems in election challenge: mayor

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A State Supreme Court justice has ruled against the Unity Party & Village First Party in its challenge of a Democratic Party caucus held in January to decide its candidates slate for the upcoming Hempstead Village election March 16, according to Mayor Don Ryan.

The Unity Party & Village First Party, headed by Ryan and comprising a Republican, two Democrats and an Independent, argued that the Democratic Party did not give proper notice of the caucus, which took place Jan. 27. According to state law, 10 days’ notice was required, when, the Unity Party & Village First Party contended, only six days’ notice was given.

Reached Wednesday morning, Ryan said he did not yet know why Justice James McCormack ruled against his party’s challenge, as the decision had just been rendered and he was awaiting word.

Four positions are open in the upcoming village election — mayor, two trustee seats and village justice. 

Village Trustee Waylyn Hobbs Jr., who is running for mayor on the Democratic Party line, held a news conference Feb. 24 to speak on the Unity Party & Village First Party challenge, which, he said, constituted an attempt at voter suppression.

Hobbs focused on the challenge’s perceived motivations. “Our mayor, who is Republican, brought a lawsuit with the New York Supreme Court challenging a fair democratic process,” he said. That “is straight from the Republican playbook of voter suppression that has found its way locally here in the Village of Hempstead.”

In a phone interview last week, Ryan said the challenge was intended only to question the validity of the Democratic Party caucus.

The suit claimed the caucus secretary posted notice of the proceeding later than required by state law. Consequently, some registered Democrats in Hempstead could not sign up in time to take part in the caucus voting process. 

On March 3, Ryan said the two Democratic Party candidates on his line — Charles Renfroe and Laquana King — were effectively unable to participate in the caucus because, he said, they did not know about it.

The fourth Unity Party & Village First Party candidate, Karla Guerra, who is running for village justice, is an Independent. Ryan acted as the lead plaintiff in the election challenge.

At the Feb. 24 news conference, Hobbs asserted that the secretary’s notice did, in fact, comply with New York state rules, and that the caucus, which was held by Zoom, had more than 200 registrants.  

The Democratic Party candidates chosen through the caucus were Hobbs for mayor, Kevin Boone and Clariona Griffith for the open trustee seats, and Brianna Vaughan for village justice. 

In the drawing for positions on the ballot, the Unity Party & Village First Party line drew Row A. However, as candidates with a national party, the Democrats had the right to hold a caucus and occupy Row A, which would push the Unity Party & Village First Party line to Row B. 

With McCormack’s decision handed down, Democrats will now be on Row A.