Former Freeport Village Mayor Andrew Hardwick, seeking to get on the ballot as a third-party candidate in the Nassau County executive race, blasted Nassau Democrats Tuesday for continuing a legal battle that sidelines him with four weeks left in the race while his opponents campaign freely.
Democratic party leaders filed a lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court challenging the validity of signatures Hardwick and his supporters collected to get his name on the ballot on the “We Count” party line. Hardwick said he gathered 8,600 signatures, far more than the 1,500 signatures needed to join Democrat Tom Suozzi and Republican Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano on the ballot for the Nov. 5 election. Hardwick, a Democrat, and his lawyers are defending the suit in court instead of focusing on the race.
“People want a different choice, they don’t want a candidate shoved down their throat,” Hardwick said outside the courthouse in Mineola. “Quite frankly,” he added, “I don’t like being called a liar.”
Nassau Democratic party lawyer Steven Schlesinger alleged that Hardwick’s entrance into the race is a veiled attempt by the Mangano’s GOP campaign to siphon votes from Suozzi, the former county executive unseated by Mangano in 2009.
Brian Nevin, Mangano’s chief spokesman, said in a statement that Schlesigner is “lying to distract residents from his clients record of hiking property taxes by double-digits.”
Hardwick’s representatives and Nassau Democrat’s attorneys returned to court Tuesday, but the judge did not rule on the case right away.
Hardwick, who lost the mayoral race to village trustee Robert Kennedy earlier this year, called a press conference after the proceedings to defend the petition process and attack Suozzi.
“I’m ashamed to say Tom Suozzi is our candidate,” he said.
Schlesinger jumped to the podium after Hardwick concluded his remarks and produced a photo of Brandon Irizarry, a friend of Hardwick’s, smiling with Mangano.
Irizarry noted that the photo was taken at an Independence Party event more than a year ago.
Meanwhile, Suozzi and Mangano will debate Tuesday in Old Westbury.