Jack Martins must face Philip Pidot in GOP primary, federal judge rules

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A Syracuse federal judge on Wednesday set a Republican primary in the 3rd Congressional District for Oct. 6, ending a monthslong legal battle over whether one would occur.

State Sen. Jack Martins (R-Old Westbury) must take on Glen Cove fraud investigator Philip Pidot after forcing him off the ballot for the original June 28 primary, U.S. District Court Judge Frederick J. Scullin ruled after oral arguments Wednesday.

The ruling settles a legal challenge by Pidot that spanned nearly two months and involved three separate cases filed in federal and state courts. He called the court ruling “a historic rebuke of an electoral corruption attempt.”

“The Long Island political machine has been rolling over outsiders since I was a boy, and it had to stop; someone had to stand up to the bully,” Pidot said in a statement.

The ruling came a day after the U.S. Department of Justice filed a memorandum of law saying the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, the federal law that set the original June 28 primary date, would not preclude the new Republican primary Pidot requested.

Scullin’s decision directs the state and county election boards to seek a “hardship exemption” from the law’s deadlines for the mailing of absentee ballots to overseas military service members.

Pidot, a one-time Glen Cove City Council candidate, is a major underdog in the primary — Martins was named the Republican nominee for the North Shore congressional district in March and has already attracted more than $1 million in support from the National Republican Congressional Committee for the general election. House Speaker Paul Ryan is set to stump for Martins later this month.

But the ruling officially opens the question of who will face Democrat Tom Suozzi to replace outgoing Democratic Rep. Steve Israel.

E. O’Brien Murray, Martins’ senior campaign strategist, said his campaign is “confident we will win in November” against Suozzi, a former Nassau County executive. Murray made no mention of the primary or Pidot, but has called him a “perennial fringe candidate.”

“Jack’s record of fighting for lower taxes, a stronger economy and the families he represents is a message the voters support overwhelmingly,” Murray wrote in an email.

The lawsuit was the second Pidot filed in federal court after a state Supreme Court ruled in June 24 that he had the required 1,250 signatures to make the primary ballot, but that it would be “impossible” to print new ballots by the June 28 election.

The state Board of Elections ruled in May that Pidot lacked the required signatures. Pidot and Martins blamed each other for delaying the court process.

In a statement, Suozzi said the ruling “serves him [Martins] right for wasting everyone’s time and trying to kick Pidot of the ballot.”

“People are sick and tired of the petty insider political games that Jack Martins plays,” he said.

By Noah Manskar

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