UTICA — Oneida County executive hopeful Michael Hennessy said Wednesday he is looking forward to campaigning on the issues that matter to people after a state Supreme Court judge ruled he was eligible to return to the Democratic ballot line.
“I feel that the system worked,” Hennessy said after the judge’s ruling. “I’m quite happy with the way things worked out.”
Hennessy — a former county legislator — was in court Wednesday fighting a petition challenge from the campaign of Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente Jr., a Republican. Hennessy needed 750 petition signatures to appear on the ballot and turned in close to 1,000.
He was left with just 728 signatures, however, after hundreds were thrown out because the signatures were printed rather than signed or were illegible. That left him 22 signatures short of the required 750.
State Supreme Court Judge David Murad ruled early Wednesday afternoon, however, that Hennessy would be able to retain 29 of the contested ballots, thereby giving him enough votes to qualify for the Democratic ballot line.
Neither Picente nor his campaign were available for comment Wednesday evening.
Hennessy brought forward 13 witnesses during Wednesday’s court appearance. These witnesses included people who testified it was their signatures on the ballot even though they were printed and not signed in cursive, along with a handful of people who had gone door to door to help gather signatures.
Robert E. Pronteau, assistant county attorney, was in court to represent the interests of the Oneida County Board of Elections. He detailed why the signatures are required in cursive rather than printed during a brief recess in the proceedings.
“Basically the law says it has to match what’s on your registration,” he said.
Pronteau further stated that the Board of Elections could only base the signatures off of the registration cards and were not able to look at other items, such as a driver’s license. He said people should update their signature on their registration card as their signatures evolve over time.
Hennessy was represented in court by Kevin P. Ryan, a Syracuse attorney from Costello, Cooney and Fearon, LLC.
James Genovese filed the objections to the signatures on Hennessy’s petition on behalf of Picente’s campaign. Genovese was represented by David Previte and was not in court Wednesday.
Hennessy said he was still continuing on two other efforts to stay on the ballot that were put in motion after finding out he was knocked off the Democratic ballot line.
These efforts include running a write-in campaign for the Conservative line in the June 25 primary against Picente and working to gather signatures to create his own independent party line — one which he tentatively called the Patriot line.
Contact reporter Ed Harris at 315-792-5063 or follow him on Twitter (@OD_EHarris).