by Joshua Maloni
In a shocking turn of events Wednesday, the Lewiston Democratic Party candidates appointed to run in the June 17 Village of Lewiston election were ruled ineligible. Village Clerk Anne Welch disqualified mayoral candidate Jamie Symmonds and trustee candidate Jacqueline Lampman on the grounds their party failed to adhere to state election law.
Section 15-108(2)(c) states "Notice must be filed in the offices of the village clerk and the county board of elections at least 10 days before the scheduled caucus."
Welch said she did not receive notice from the Democrats of their caucus, which was held Tuesday, nor was a public announcement posted in her office.
"I'm following the law. I'm following the election law," Welch said. "It's nothing personal. I'm just following the election law - and that's my job. I run the election, I have to do what this tells me to do. And I don't go outside it. I don't bend the rules for any party."
Welch said she had copies of the election law printed and available for both the Democrats and Republicans to pickup.
She said she cannot inform a party of a failure to comply with the law until after an offense occurs.
Recognizing the Democrats had not presented her with the requisite paperwork, Welch contacted the New York Conference of Mayors Monday seeking a second opinion. She was told the failure to post notice according to Section 15-108(2)(c) would result in the invalidation of the offending party's candidates.
When reached for comment Wednesday afternoon, Lewiston Democratic Committee Chairwoman Diane Roberts said, "We are going to address it."
On Tuesday night, Symmonds won the caucus race for the mayoral nomination. She defeated Lampman in what was called a "close" vote (totals were not disclosed). Symmonds was poised to be the Democratic Party's first mayoral candidate in 20 years.
When news broke of her disqualification, she was forced to consider a backup plan.
"I have only, obviously, found out about this. ... Yet, I am that passionate and I believe that strongly, even more so now, that I need to move forward. And I am going to still pursue and do whatever it takes to be the next mayor in the Village of Lewiston," Symmonds said.
That includes running as an independent candidate.
"I am exploring all my options right now," she said.
Symmonds is definitely staying in the race, she added.
"I will. Absolutely," Symmonds said, noting she's "more than ever determined.
"I want to be the next mayor of Lewiston."
Symmonds owns Angel to Apple Clothing & Shoe Boutique on Center Street. Former Mayor Richard Soluri appointed her to the village's Planning Board/Historic Preservation Commission in 2009. She served in that capacity until 2013, when current Mayor Terry Collesano gave her board seat to Norm Machelor.
Should Symmonds officially re-enter the mayoral race, she will likely compete with Collesano.
The Republican caucus is next Tuesday.
Speaking to Democrats at the caucus Tuesday, Symmonds said, "I love Lewiston. I have been extremely involved for the last 10 years."
"I'm here to make a difference," she said. "I believe it's time to respect the past of Lewiston - keep it historic; keep it to its original charm. But I think we have to protect the future of it, as well. ... I think we need serious people who are passionate and love Lewiston and want to see good things for it."
Lampman was nominated for one of the two four-year trustee positions. When contacted about her party's disqualification, she said, "I had no clue."
She said she had not been contacted. Lampman planned to assess the situation before making a decision on the future of her candidacy.
When asked if she would seek a trustee position on an independent line, Lampman said, "I'd run for mayor."
In 2008, then Deputy Mayor Mike Marra, a Republican, did not receive enough votes at the GOP caucus to earn his party's line. He and Trustee Ron Winkley created and ran on the Our Village Party line.
That same year, David Baird, who took Marra's spot with the GOP, declined the nomination and instead ran as a Democrat. He and Lewiston businessman Robert Giannetti, also a Democrat, formed their own line, the Village Independent Party.
Ultimately, Marra and Winkley were both re-elected.