The Northern Westchester Examiner

Reversal of Fortune in Peekskill as Democratic Primary is Set

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There will be a Democratic primary on September 12 in Peekskill featuring Common Council candidates after all.

On August 23, a five-member panel in New York State Supreme Court’s Appellate Division: Second Judicial Department overturned an earlier State Supreme Court judge ruling that left Luis Segarra and Robert Sullivan, registered Democrats running on the Peekskill United ticket with Republican Mayor Frank Catalina, short of the required signatures to force a primary.

Following Justice Sam Walker’s ruling that upheld a July 28 decision from the Westchester County Board of Elections, Sullivan, an attorney, who filed a lawsuit objecting to the Board of Elections’ findings, took his case to the higher court and prevailed, setting the stage for a primary involving Segarra and Sullivan and Democratic Committee nominees Colin Smith, Ramon Fernandez and Vanessa Agudelo.

“There is no place in my hometown of Peekskill for big party politics. It is unfortunate we had to fight through four days in court over the course of two weeks to bring justice to the Peekskill voters,” Segarra said. “I’m proud to say they now have a choice! Sullivan and I have all the experience and compassion Peekskill needs.”

Catalina, who is seeking a third two-year term, facing a challenge from Councilman Andre Rainey, applauded the Appellate Court’s decision.

“I am gratified that, after Bob Sullivan and Luis Segarra have been trashed by Andre Rainey and his team who desperately want to deny their fellow Democrats a real choice, will have the opportunity to present their credentials, beliefs, lifetime achievements and visions for Peekskill to the Democratic voters on primary day,” Catalina stated.

“But to me, the real story here is the judicial conduct and decision of Judge Sam Walker. While ethics rules prevent me from criticizing a sitting Judge, I would note the use of the word “improvidently” in the Appellate Court decision. To me, that’s the real horror of this story,” Catalina continued. “I mean the Board of Elections is expected to act “politically,” but in my 36 years of practicing law, win or lose, I have never walked out of a courtroom feeling like the Judge was actually advocating for the other side. Thank God there are Appellate Courts…. and primaries. Let the people decide!”

The Peekskill Democratic Committee issued a statement after the Appellate Court’s decision, claiming the primary was “an attempt by the Republican Party to deceive voters by depriving them of a choice on Election Day.”

“This is an effort by the Republicans to present their candidates as progressives with Peekskill’s best interests at heart, but they have already cost taxpayers thousands in lawsuits,” Rainey said. “If this is how they want to operate, it’s a shame for Peekskill.”

“This primary will be an opportunity to demonstrate that voters won’t be tricked into thinking otherwise,” Smith said. “Primaries are supposed to expand democracy, not manipulate it.”

The Common Council currently has four Democrats and three Republicans. Republican Councilman Joe Torres is running for reelection, but Republican Councilman Vincent “Boo” Vesce and Democratic Councilwoman Drew Claxton have opted to end their council duties at the end of the year.

Catalina’s Peekskill United Team has already secured the Republican, Conservative and Independence lines. The Democrats will also appear on the Working Families line. The general election will be held on November 7.

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