Town judge knocked off ballot by fellow Dem

A Monroe town justice who’s running for state Supreme Court may have lost his fallback plan to seek re-election as town justice after a fellow Democrat who collected signatures for him and filed his petition then got that very petition invalidated.

Steven Milligram, a trial lawyer who’s finishing his second term as a municipal court judge in his hometown, is running for one of four open Supreme Court justice seats in New York’s 9th Judicial District, which takes in five Hudson Valley counties. Since the party nominating conventions for Supreme Court aren’t until August, Milligram also planned to file a petition for another four-year term as Monroe justice by the April 4 deadline.

But a Monroe Democratic committee member who helped carry Milligram’s town justice petition submitted it to the Orange County Board of Elections with insufficient signatures, and then filed objections on April 15 that caused the county’s election commissioners to toss the petition.

That puts Milligram out of the race for Monroe justice, unless he files an independent petition by May 28 to run on his own ballot line. Absent any independent candidates, Republican candidate James McKnight will run unopposed for the seat in November.

In an exasperated email to fellow Democrats, Monroe Democratic Chairman Tom Kemnitz called the episode a “deliberate act of sabotage” and “stunning betrayal of trust” by Jerome O’Connell, the Democrat committee member who got Milligram’s petition invalidated. He accused O’Connell of collaborating with Republicans to help their candidate, arguing that the GOP didn’t bother to complete its own petition objections because “they knew that Jerome O’Connell would do it.”

“We will have to make extraordinary efforts to ensure that the Republican does not run unopposed,” Kemnitz wrote.

O’Connell told the Times Herald-Record in response on Tuesday that he didn’t submit additional petition pages for Milligram because they were delivered to his house at 10:30 on the night before the deadline, and they lacked the witness signatures needed for them to be valid.

He also said he resented that Milligram didn’t help collect signatures for his petition, and he objected to the candidate that Democrats planned to substitute for Milligram on the town ballot if he’s nominated for the Supreme Court race. (O’Connell didn’t identify the substitute candidate; Kemnitz said by email that “the person he is worried about had long since ruled himself out of running for town justice.”)

He denied colluding with the Republicans, saying, “That’s just absolutely ridiculous.”

Milligram said by email that he believed O’Connell had a “responsibility to assure that appropriate petitions were submitted,” and that he should have contacted someone if any petition pages needed to be signed.

“I called him several times and texted him and he ignored all of my messages,” Milligram said.

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