Brooklyn GOP ordered to redo contested convention

It’s likely back to the drawing board for local Republicans nearly a year after the Kings County GOP convention, after a judge ordered warring factions within the party to redo its contested convention that resulted in two individuals each claiming the borough party’s top spot.

After the September 30, 2015 County Committee meeting at Remsen Hall, both Arnaldo Ferraro and Ted Ghorra claimed the chairpersonship of the borough party, leading to a protracted court case that has been resolved by New York State Supreme Court Judge Edgar Walker, who on August 11 issued his decision, calling for the county convention to be repeated, after the city’s Board of Elections deferred to the court to determine the convention’s result.

Ferraro was supported by the party’s outgoing Chair Craig Eaton as well as Republican District Leader Lucretia Regina-Potter, while Ghorra was supported by State Senator Marty Golden. There had reportedly been bad blood between Eaton and Golden for a period of time preceding the convention, which Walker determined had a “number of irregularities that occurred in ruling on proxy votes.”

Ghorra supporters had contended that Ferraro was elected as the party’s new chair because the Eaton-backed party Credentials Committee had thrown out nearly every proxy vote cast for Ghorra, making Ferraro the winner.

As a result, after the convention was concluded, party leaders who backed Ghorra held their own convention outside Remsen Hall, electing Ghorra chair and Ferraro vice chair, with Ghorra supporters contending at the time that there were 438 proxies favoring Ghorra before the Credentials Committee threw out all but 17 while the Ferraro side had a total of approximately 330 proxy votes, making Ghorra the easy winner had all the votes been counted.

However, Ferraro’s backers alleged election fraud, citing robocalls they said had emanated from Ghorra supporters which told county committee members not to sign and return the proxy [designating Eaton as such] that had been sent with the meeting notice but rather to wait for a call from “your district leader or representative [who] will contact you personally to have you sign the 8-1/2×11 official proxy.”

The robocalls, Ferraro’s side said, had been followed by personal visits from Ghorra supporters who told committee members “we have the official proxy for you to sign, but don’t date it. We’ll take care of that for you.” As a result, backers of Ferraro said that “tainted” proxies with erasures or different colored ink had been “thrown out.”

However, in a decision issued on March 21, Walker determined that the “Credentials Committee exceeded its authority and otherwise acted improperly in invalidating the Golden proxies based solely upon the robocall,” ruling as well that “the Credentials Committee had no power under the Kings County Republican Party Rules to summarily invalidate hundreds of proxies of duly credentialed County Committee members based upon a finding of fraud.”

In addition, after a series of hearings, Walker ruled on August 11 that “the Credentials Committee applied two completely different standards in reviewing and ruling on the validity” of the proxies submitted by each side – making sure only that proxies in favor of Ferraro were signed by members of the County Committee who were not present at the meeting, while it “subjected all Golden proxies to a high level of scrutiny and ultimately invalidated some 96% of these proxies on approximately 20 separate grounds,” ultimately throwing out “numerous Golden proxies based upon defects and alleged improprieties which, when present in [a proxy submitted by Eaton or one of his colleagues] were ignored.

“Had the Credentials Committee…applied the same standard of review to all proxies, it is probable that the Ghorra slate of officers would have been elected,” Walker wrote, also citing “double counting of votes by certain Eaton and Potter proxy signers, as well as other irregularities, in making his determination, contending further that many of the individuals whose proxies were invalidated “were deprived of this right [to vote by proxy] due to the arbitrary and capricious actions of the Credentials Committee.”

At the same time, however, Walker declined to validate the election of Ghorra contending that he and his slate “were not properly elected….The attempt by certain members of the Golden faction to reconvene the meeting on the sidewalk outside the meeting hall and elect the Ghorra slate were clearly improper,” for numerous reasons.

For Ghorra, it’s time “to move forward and unite folks.” While saying he hopes for a “diplomatic solution,” he told this paper, “If the standard had been uniform, clearly we would have won. At the end of the day, the recourse was to call for a new convention.”

Ferraro pointed to Walker’s judgment that Ghorra’s election was not valid in a written statement submitted to this paper, noting also, “While I strongly disagree with the holding of a new convention, I also think that it is too soon to evaluate and comment on such a decision, since some clarifications are needed about the procedures of such a convention.”

Both Ghorra and Ferraro expressed a need to unify the party to work together to elect Republicans, a sentiment echoed by Eaton, who noted, “There really are no winners here. Tens of thousands of dollars were spent on both sides, when that money would be much better spent fighting the Democrats.”

While one party insider predicted that Walker’s ruling would be appealed, should a new convention be called, it would take place within the next 60 to 90 days, based on the judge’s directive.

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