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Konst loses minor party line in contest against Volker

Kathy Konst's minority party candidacy in her race against State Sen. Dale M. Volker was invalidated Tuesday by State Supreme Court Justice Timothy J. Drury, who upheld Volker's challenge to Konst's nominating petitions.

The judge found that Konst's Integrity Party petitions had 2,838 valid signatures, short of the required 3,000.

Konst might decide today whether to appeal the ruling.

"We will be addressing that issue today," said Harry N. Konst, the candidate's husband, who is also a lawyer.

After the ruling, Konst and her political foes traded accusations of wrongdoing.

Konst, a two-term Erie County legislator from Lancaster, remains on the Democratic Party line for the 59th District seat now held by Volker, a Depew Republican.

She described the high-cost challenge to her minority line as "a sign of the absolute desperation" by state GOP leaders trying to preserve control of the State Senate, where they now hold a one-seat edge.

James P. Domagalski, chairman of the Erie County Republican Party, said he will recommend that Volker's lawyer consider court action to force Konst to pay the $35 fee for each of the 90 voters subpoenaed to attend what had been expected to be a daylong hearing before Drury.

"Miss Konst has to bear responsibility, and she owes the voters an apology," for forcing them to come to the downtown courtroom, Domagalski said.

In his ruling, Drury found that witnesses for Konst had failed to get sworn affirmations for 291 voters who signed her minority party petitions last summer.

Harry Konst blamed the shortcoming on computer software problems at the state Board of Elections in Albany, which upheld the minority party line Sept. 18 with 3,129 valid signatures. He appealed unsuccessfully to the judge for several additional days to go over the Election Board data.

He also complained that Volker's lawyers had bombarded him with legal motions, preventing the crafting of a countersuit in time for Tuesday's hearing.

But Drury, agreeing with John Ciampoli, a GOP election law attorney from Albany, told Konst his side had more than two weeks to prepare countermotions to Volker's Sept. 2 court challenge and had not done so.

Ciampoli also noted that no Konst attorneys went to Albany for a state Election Board hearing in the petition dispute earlier in September. Harry Konst, meanwhile, argued unsuccessfully that attendence at that hearing was not required.

Kathy Konst has said the minority party candidacy was an effort to give registered Republicans in the heavily Republican district an option to vote for a Democrat on an alternative line.

She added that she hoped to win the support of voters, including the 90 she described as "very sympathetic to me" who had to come downtown under Volker subpoenas for the court session.

e-mail: mgryta@buffnews.com

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