The race for NY's 19th congressional district is sure to heat up now that Democrat incumbent John Hall has accused challenger Nan Hayworth's campaign with petition fraud in their bid for the Independence Party line. The story makes for juicy headlines in the newspaper, but the real question is, is there any substance to the claims?
To be honest, there are large potential benefits for John Hall in making such allegations, regardless of whether they are accurate or spurious. There is the obvious damage caused in linking Nan Hayworth's campaign to fraud. Still, there are two larger incentives for doing so:
John Hall's campaign has been avid in their attempts to knock Nan Hayworth off of the Independence Party ballot line. In NY, there are a large number of third parties, so there is often a large battle between candidates to claim as many ballot lines as is possible. Simply holding a spot on a party ballot can carry large benefits. Last November, Dede Scozzafava drew 5% of the NY-23 vote despite the fact that she'd dropped out of the race.
Nan Hayworth has more cash on hand than John Hall. Allegations of fraud could have a freezing effect on Hayworth's fund raising as potential donors wait for a legal outcome. Meanwhile, John Hall will likely use the allegations to solicit money from Democrat donors.
Clearly, John Hall has much to gain from making allegations and it certainly explains why the Hall campaign "doth protest too much." Just how solid are John Hall's allegations?
John Hall Campaign Manager Patrick McGarrity called the allegations "A work in progress." That's an interesting way for a campaign manager to describe John Hall's claims.
John Hall himself is no bastion of ethical purity hailing from the political pearly gates. Despite the fact that Charlie Rangel has long been suspected for numerous ethics violations, John Hall held onto Rangel campaign contributions. That is until public outcry threatened his campaign.
Writing in his diary at FireDogLake, nutroot John Hall supporter Cliff Weathers wrote:
Hicks, the manager of the GOP hopeful in New York's 19th Congressional District, is scheduled to appear in court on September 25. At question are petitions carried by Hayworth's notaries for the Independence Party, a minor New York party. Petitions must either be carried by members of the party or by notaries, public servants appointed by state government to witness the signing of important documents and administer oaths. Typically, notaries are used for signature gathering because of a scarcity of party members willing to carry petition sheets…
…According to New York State Law, a notary public who practices fraud by issuing a document knowing that it contains a false statement or false information is guilty of a Class E Felony and may be imprisoned up to 4 years.
The way Cliff is writing, you'd have thought that the FBI helicopters had just touched down, but someone ought to tell Cliff he can rest his shrill cries of wolf for the time being. The case is being taken to a civil court. Nan Hayworth's campaign explains:
…the Board of elections won't take up such matters, those issues must be decided by a court.
Meanwhile, Nan Hayworth's campaign has rallied behind campaign manager John Hicks to show their support:
"The allegation that John Hicks is somehow involved in and directed fraud is beyond the pale. Anyone who knows John Hicks, and I've known him for years, knows it's laughable. This is nothing but desperation politics on the part of the Hall campaign. I hope they have miscalculated the mood of the district as badly as they've miscalculated John Hicks' character. His reputation is beyond reproach, and the district has had it with the results that John Hall and his Washington buddies are serving up. Come November, voters will choose his replacement."
A compelling allegation of fraud would have originated from Independence Party members whom the Hall campaign claims was defrauded. Instead, all we have are the accusations of one campaign against another. In other words, it's far too early to make a judgment. The first real indication will be which campaign tries to stall the court, since the innocent party has a large incentive to conclude matters quickly, while the guilty will want to prolong.