With the lone Republican candidate stepping aside, Putnam County Judge James Reitz has thrown his name into the race for a 9th judicial district New York State Supreme Court seat with only about a month to campaign.
After Yonkers Chief Judge Michael Martinelli dropped out of the race last month, Reitz, a Carmel resident, decided to step up to run in the 11th hour, acknowledging his bid for the position would be a long shot with such little time to campaign.
“That to me is the next step in my career, possibly, I just like that,” Reitz said in an interview. “I like the law, I like the judgeship, and I think the Supreme Court is just the logical next step. I’m just taking this opportunity and doing the best I can with the short amount of time I have.”
Reitz, a well-known fixture in Putnam, has been a judge in the county for a dozen years, winning the county seat back in 2007 and easily earning reelection in 2016.
The 9th judicial district covers Westchester, Putnam, Rockland, Dutchess and Orange counties. There are seven seats open, with the full slate of Democrats the favorites to nab each one.
Martinelli informed leadership from the GOP, Conservative, and Reform parties that due to personal reasons, he could no longer go forward in the race. In a statement, Martinelli said serious health issues involving his brother and father (former longtime Yonkers mayor Angelo Martinelli) led to the decision to drop out.
“Naturally, when I first announced my candidacy I could not foresee either of these medical events unfolding the way they have, and it has become crystal clear that the choice for Jeanne (his wife) and I is to tend to our family’s affairs first and put my desire to serve as a Supreme Court Justice on hold for the time being,” Martinelli stated.
Reitz said despite the time crunch, he’s going to reach out to as many voters as possible in the five different counties. He also hopes to get the help from as many volunteers as possible that can spread his name and message.
He noted he doesn’t plan to fundraise for the campaign because of the short notice.
“There’s not much I can do with the lack of time,” Reitz, who is involved in several non-profits and charities, said.
Reitz said his work on the bench gives people a chance to change their ways, but also holds them accountable. In treatment court where residents who are addicted to drugs or alcohol and in trouble with the law get a second chance, Reitz said he would like to do that on a state level.
Through treatment court, Reitz has seen so many “miracles” and changes in people for the better.
“I want to help as many people as possible,” he said.
With another state Supreme Court seat up for next year, Reitz said his plan was to heavily consider running for that position and if he loses this year, he certainly still will. While he’s going to work hard to win this year, Reitz said at the very least he’d be getting his name out for a run next year. The current justice in that seat, John Sweeney, will be aging out of the court system.
“I don’t know why, but I’m so optimistic. I believe that we can reach the people with what we’re doing now and what we’ve done over the last 12 years in the county court,” Reitz said.