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GOP tries to knock Amherst clerk candidate from Democratic line

Local and state Republicans are trying to knock the Democratic candidate for Amherst town clerk off that ballot line for next month's election.

The GOP filed a complaint arguing Francina J. Spoth's nomination by the Democrats is invalid. Attorneys for both parties sparred in state Supreme Court on Tuesday. Justice Paul B. Wojtaszek had not issued a decision as of late Thursday.

Jeffery Zeplowitz, the Republican candidate for town clerk, filed the complaint with the state Republican Party and its chairman, Edward Cox.

The Amherst town clerk position wasn't supposed to be on the ballot this fall. But incumbent Marjory Jaeger announced on Aug. 27 that she would resign to take a job with the University at Buffalo, effective Sept. 18. Both Democrats and Republicans had to nominate candidates for the unexpected race.

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The case centers on technicalities of state election law. Zeplowitz and Cox contend the Democrats didn't follow proper procedure in nominating Spoth, an Amherst Town Board member and the deputy supervisor.

Spoth was picked by the executive committee of the Erie County Democratic Committee, but it was the committee membership that's been in place for more than a year.

Democrats on the Sept. 13 primary day had elected new county committee members, and those committee members in turn must elect new members of the party's executive committee.

That hadn't happened before the Democrats, facing a deadline to pick a clerk's candidate, tabbed Spoth.

The law, as the GOP points out, states the most recently elected committee must make a nomination. Republicans argue that because the new executive committee members didn't select Spoth, her nomination isn't valid.

Democrats, led by Amherst Democratic Chairman Jerome Schad, make several counter-arguments. First, they say their reorganization process, as guided by their own party rules, is laborious and time-consuming and that's why the existing committee was justified in acting on the nomination.

Next, they argue that neither Zeplowitz nor Cox has standing to bring the lawsuit.

Generally speaking, Republican Erie County Elections Commissioner Ralph Mohr said, anyone challenging a ballot line must be a member of the party in question or someone who was entitled in some way to the ballot line.

Democrats say neither applies to Zeplowitz or Cox, with Schad going further in questioning why the state Republican chairman would insert himself in the Amherst town clerk's race.

Amherst Dems claim Jaeger is 'ineligible' to run for supervisor

Republicans argue Zeplowitz and Cox do have standing and Democrats had sufficient time to reorganize. In fact, Conservatives faced the same legal challenge and managed to reorganize and take another vote to nominate Spoth for their line, Mohr said.

Either side could appeal the judge's decision. Even if Spoth loses the Democratic line, she would remain the Conservative nominee in the race.

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