In a surprise move in State Supreme Court Wednesday, a lawyer representing Suffolk County Legis. Monica Martinez (D-Brentwood) withdrew her candidacy from the Democratic primary in September.
That means that her would-be challenger Giovanni Mata of Central Islip has won that round without a fight. Come November, Martinez’ name will appear only on the general election ballot for two minor parties, the lines for the Frank MacKay and Gary Melius-backed Independence Party and the progressive Working Families Party.
As of right now, no Republican candidate will be on the November ballot for that legislative seat.
Martinez’ withdrawal came before lawyers representing Mata could present their case to Judge Joseph Santorelli that Martinez had committed fraud on her campaign petitions. Ivan Young, an attorney representing Mata, had a legal handwriting expert from Manhattan, Roger Rubin, on hand to back up his candidate’s claim that she had falsified the witness statements on four pages of her signing petition, involving 10 to 12 signatures.
“They just came in and conceded the election on the Democratic line,” Young told the Press, calling the decision “very unusual.”
Martinez’ lawyer, Tom Garry, could not be reached for comment. But Suffolk Democratic Chairman Rich Schaffer rushed to her defense. Her brother is a town councilman in Babylon, where Schaffer is also town supervisor. He noted that Martinez is a registered Democrat and has an important part in the Democratic caucus in the county legislature.
“I personally am going to do everything I have to to make sure she’s re-elected,” Schaffer told the Press. “I’m confident that she will be overwhelmingly re-elected in November.”
Her withdrawal is seen as a victory for one of Schaffer’s major political adversaries, former Suffolk County Legis. Rick Montano, who lost his seat in the Legislature to Martinez. He’s running against Thomas Licari, the candidate backed by the Islip Democratic Committee, for the Democratic line. The winner will challenge the incumbent Republican Islip Town Supervisor Angie Carpenter.
“The wind’s at our back right now!” said Montano. “This is a major legal victory. This has never really been done.”
Schaffer, no friend of Montano—in fact he and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone helped orchestrate his defeat from the Legislature—saw it differently.
“It doesn’t happen often,” Schaffer said. “It’s happened before.”
The next round in this increasingly contentious legal battle pitting Suffolk Democrats against themselves is set to take place Friday when challenges will be heard on campaign petitions involving Montano and his slate of town candidates and those of the Islip Town Democratic Committee.
Carpenter is facing no primary opposition in her race. Who her Democratic opponent will be in November remains to be seen.