Sean Patrick Maloney’s dual campaign for state attorney general and Congress faced its first legal test in Albany County Supreme Court on Tuesday.
Martin E. Connor appeared before Justice Denise Hartman to explain why Maloney’s concurrent campaigns are legal. Maloney is the incumbent Democratic nominee for a congressional district in the lower Hudson Valley, but is also seeking to become the Democratic nominee for state attorney general.
John Ciampoli, who is representing the Hudson Valley residents challenging Maloney’s campaigns, said in court they would no longer be challenging Maloney’s petitions to run for state attorney general. Ciampoli said after court that he agreed to drop that challenge at the request of Maloney’s campaign.
“If I invalidate both, there’s less of a choice for attorney general, and there’s no choice for Congress,” Ciampoli said.
The original lawsuit was seeking to invalidate Maloney’s signatures for both elected offices, which would leave him off the ballot entirely this year. Ciampoli said James O’Donnell, one of the plaintiffs and Maloney’s Republican opponent for Congress, wants Democratic voters in the district to have a choice sooner rather than later.
That was also part of Ciampoli’s argument before Hartman on Tuesday.
“It is, I think, selfish to hold the people of this congressional district hostage,” Ciampoli said in court.
His argument interprets state law to mean that Maloney can not run for two offices at the same time, regardless of whether one campaign is for a primary election and the other is the general. Maloney has said he intends to drop his bid for Congress if he’s chosen as the Democratic nominee for state attorney general.
Ciampoli argued that there’s no legal guarantee that Maloney would end his campaign for Congress after the statewide primary in September. If Maloney continued on both ballot lines, one would have to be disqualified, he argued, because both offices are incompatible.
“The focus here has to be, right now, whether there is a conflict between the two offices,” Ciampoli said. “Can Mr. Maloney on Jan. 1, 2019, if he’s selected for both positions, take the oath of office for both offices?”
The answer would be no, Campioli said. Both state and federal law say a member of the House and the state attorney general can not concurrently hold another job.
Hartman challenged Campioli’s argument at times, mostly over the notion that Maloney is a candidate for two offices.
“The fact is there are now two separate primary elections,” Hartman said. “He will not be running for two offices in that same primary election.”
That was the same point Conner made in his arguments before Hartman. Conner argued that the statewide primary election in September and the general election in November are two separate events, where Maloney can run for two offices independently.
“Sean Maloney is not going to be on the ballot twice for the September primary,” Conner said.
He supported his argument with a section of election law that addresses a candidate’s nomination to a second office after first being nominated for a different office. That statute, in Election Law Section 6-146, says “a person who has been nominated for public office by a party or parties and who is thereafter nominated for another office by one or more of such parties … may decline such first nomination or nominations not later than the third day after the filing of the certificate of his nomination or nominations for such other office.”
Conner said the litigation is unwarranted in part because Maloney has not been selected as the nominee for state attorney general. The certification of that election won’t happen until later in September.
“Sean Patrick Maloney is not and will not be on the ballot twice in November,” Conner said. “He first needs to get the nomination.”
Campioli had addressed that point earlier by claiming parts of state law prevent a candidate from even running for two elected offices at the same time. Conner rebuffed that argument with his own interpretation of the statute.
“We say running—nowhere in the statute does it say running,” Conner said.
If Maloney won the nomination for state attorney general and dropped his bid for Congress, county party leaders would have to fill the vacancy before the general election in November. Ciampoli argued that the short timeframe wasn’t fair for voters to get to know the new candidate and consider their options before Election Day.
Conner replied that the late nomination was not atypical for elected offices in New York. Voters do not know the final nominees for governor until after the September primary, for example, Conner said.
Hartman did not issue a decision from the bench, but is expected to decide quickly. The Third Department will hear any appeals from the Supreme Court over primary ballot access on Aug. 23 and the Court of Appeals will hear cases the following week.