In a swift turn of events, Suffolk County Democrats have chosen Jennifer Maertz, a colleague of recently disqualified State Senate candidate Regina Calcaterra, to face off against incumbent Senator Kenneth P. LaValle in November.
Ms. Maertz entered the race with Ms. Calcaterra’s backing after Ms. Calcaterra, who resides in New Suffolk, failed to convince the State Supreme Court Appellate Division to overturn a decision throwing her off the ballot for failing to meet residency requirements to run for the State Legislature.
On Friday, Ms. Maertz, 34, emphasized that she and Ms. Calcaterra are both dedicated to the same goals. She said taking the reins on Ms. Calcaterra’s campaign so far has been a “seamless transition.”
“This campaign is not about the person,” Ms. Maertz said. “It’s about what needs to be changed in Albany. We might have changed the name, but we didn’t change the purpose of the campaign.”
Ms. Maertz, an attorney from Rocky Point, had shadowed Ms. Calcaterra during her campaign, according to Suffolk County Democratic Chairman Richard Schaffer. She was designated by the party’s committee on vacancies to take over on Thursday morning. “If we couldn’t have Regina, she’s the next best thing,” Mr. Schaffer said.
In a statement issued on Thursday afternoon, Ms. Calcaterra confirmed she will seek to appeal to the State Court of Appeals, but because of deadlines to place candidates on the ballot, she requested that Democratic Party and Working Families Party leaders designate Ms. Maertz as their candidate for State Senate in her stead.
“Jennifer’s platform is in complete sync with mine, and I want to let my supporters know that she will not just run as hard a campaign as I have, but she will provide Senate District 1 with the strong leadership and fighting spirit it has, for decades, been lacking in the State Senate,” Ms. Calcaterra stated.
Ms. Calcaterra’s first appeal was heard by the State Supreme Court Appellate Division 2nd Judicial Department on Tuesday, according to Andrew Moesel, a spokesman for her campaign.
On August 9, Judge John C. Bivona decided that Ms. Calcaterra failed to meet the constitutional residency requirement—a continuous residency in the state of New York for five years immediately preceding an election to the State Legislature—because she could not demonstrate maintaining a residence in New York between November 2005 and May 2006.
That decision, which disqualified her candidacy, was based on evidence of Ms. Calcaterra’s conduct in Pennsylvania, including surrendering her New York driver’s license, voting in the state, maintaining a bank account, obtaining a divorce and filing income taxes within the state. The objections to Ms. Calcaterra’s status as a candidate were waged by three citizen objectors: Ely V. Chaimowitz, Mary Magnificio and Maria Re-Kilmartin.
Ms. Maertz said she is a lifelong resident of the 1st State Senate District.
Prior to Wednesday’s ruling, campaign officials representing Ms. Calcaterra said they had raised $138,000—the most an opponent to Mr. LaValle has raised “in decades,” according to Mr. Moesel. Ms. Maertz said she is planning to embark on her own fund-raising campaign but said she might be receiving some financial assistance from the former candidate. “We haven’t finalized that,” she said.
Joann Scalia, Mr. LaValle’s campaign manager, said the incumbent’s campaign will remain unchanged, regardless of his new opponent.
“Senator LaValle remains focused on the needs of the residents of the 1st Senatorial District,” she said. “He runs on his record and will continue to fight in Albany to strengthen our economy, reduce taxes and create jobs. He understands the importance of ensuring a suburban agenda in Albany and welcomes the debate with whoever the candidate may be.”