Senatorial hopeful taken to court; fights to keep name on ballot

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08/05/2010 12:00 AM |

Regina Calcaterra

Democratic state Senate candidate Regina Calcaterra took a forced break from campaigning this week, swapping answering questions from would-be voters to testifying in a state courtroom in a case that will either clear away a major political distraction or bring her first bid for public office to a sudden, and early, end.

The New Suffolk resident was on the stand in Riverhead for several hours Tuesday until the session ended at 7:30 p.m. and returned for more questioning Wednesday morning. She’s answering allegations raised by two Brookhaven Town residents that she fails to meet the state’s residency requirement and is ineligible to run.

Ms. Calcaterra, a corporate attorney running to unseat veteran Republican Senator Kenneth LaValle, did win one significant court battle this week. In a separate proceeding, a state Supreme Court justice upheld the Suffolk Board of Election’s decision to invalidate the nominating petitions filed by Calverton Democrat Gregory Fischer, who sought to force Ms. Calcaterra into a Democratic primary in September. Last week the BOE ruled that Mr. Fischer submitted his paperwork a day past deadline.

On Monday the board’s Democratic and Republic commissioners split over the validity of Ms. Calcaterra’s petitions for the Democratic and Working Families lines. In the absence of a unanimous decision, petitions are ruled valid. That set the stage for the court challenge before Justice John Bivona.

It was not immediately clear as to when the judge might decide the residency issue.

The case turns on the question of whether a state legislative candidate must live in New York for five consecutive years immediately prior to running for office. The Democrat’s opponents point out that she bought a home in suburban Philadelphia and registered to vote there in 2004, then switched her enrollment and driver’s license back to New York in 2007.

Ms. Calcaterra responds that during the period from 2004 to 2007 she maintained a New York residence, a rental apartment in Manhattan.

“While she did buy a home in Pennsylvania, she never relinquished her New York residence,” said campaign spokesman Andrew Moezel. “We are right in both the letter and spirit of the law.”

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