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Judge orders the removal of 21 Conservative Party 'raiders' in Rush 

A state judge on Wednesday ordered 21 people in Rush who had recently enrolled as members of the Conservative Party to be removed from the party roll.

The case was brought by the chairman of the county Conservative Party, Donald Mazzullo, who asserted that the new Conservatives were “party raiders” who enrolled as Conservatives to help elect left-leaning candidates to Rush town council positions on the party line.

He sued, urging the court to compel the state and county Boards of Elections to purge the 21 members from the Conservative Party roll, arguing that he had sufficient evidence to prove the members were “not in sympathy with the Conservative Party.”

State Supreme Court Justice Daniel Doyle agreed. In his decision, Doyle found that Mazzullo had taken the proper steps under state law to question whether the members held Conservative ideologies and that his determination that they were interlopers was fair.

“The court finds that there is sufficient evidence and that the decision of Mazzullo is just under the circumstances,” Doyle wrote.

RELATED: In Rush, a raid on the Conservative Party and a question of values

Allegations of hostile takeovers of third-parties have surfaced across the state this year. In particular, former Republicans have been accused of masquerading as left-leaning Working Families Party members in an effort to sway primary elections in that party toward right-leaning candidates.

Party raids stem in part from New York’s allowance of what is known as “fusion voting,” an electoral oddity in which candidates are able to run and collect votes on multiple party lines that, in some cases, represent wildly divergent political philosophies. Only eight states allow the practice.

The theory among political candidates in states that allow fusion voting is that the more lines under which their name appears on a ballot, the better their chances of being elected.

RELATED: Judge tosses GOP bid to kick Democrats off Working Families ballot line

In third-party primaries, particularly in small towns where party enrollment is low, a handful of party members can swing the outcome of a election. In Rush, for instance, just 71 voters are enrolled as Conservatives, including the 21 new enrollees whose adherence to party principles was in question.

Registered voters can enroll in any party they wish, of course. But state Election Law provides a mechanism for party officials to smoke out members it believes are working to undermine the party and its principles.

In the case of the new Conservatives in Rush, Mazzullo called a hearing under the law to question their sympathies with Conservative Party principles. When none of them showed up at the hearing to defend their decision to enroll, he determined that they were not real Conservatives.

Mazzullo also made his finding on additional evidence, namely that most of the members had signed petitions orchestrated by longstanding Democrats to get three new Conservative candidates on the ballot.

One of those candidates was Ted Barnett, who was running for town supervisor in the Conservative primary and who was until recently listed as a member of the Rush Democratic Committee.

In their defense, the members argued in court a day earlier that the Conservative Party so routinely broke with supposed conservative values in supporting candidates for elected office that there was no telling where the party stood on any one issue.

Doyle was unconvinced.

“Whether the Conservative Party previously endorsed candidates and whether those candidates perfectly embodied Conservative principles after endorsement is immaterial to whether the Conservative Party has base principles that that was the purpose of the party’s creation and continuation,” Doyle wrote in his decision.

David Andreatta is CITY's editor. He can be reached at dandreatta@rochester-citynews.com.
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