Without knowing what Hartford Superior Court Judge James T. Graham will decide, Michael Jarjura said this is as far as he plans on taking his lawsuit against the state and his opponent in the race for comptroller.
“My perspective is that I’ve taken this as far as I want to take it. I’ve gotta move on,” Jarjura said Tuesday outside the courtroom.
Howard Levine, Jarjura’s lawyer, argued that when the legislature called for a level playing field by creating the clean elections system, it also called for a level playing field in how the funds are dispersed. He said the state Elections Enforcement Commission allowed Lembo to go back out and fundraise after the July 16 deadline, which isn’t fair.
Dan Livingston, Lembo’s lawyer, argued his candidate was only doing what the State Elections Enforcement Commission advised him to do. He said if the judge grants the injunction it will effectively silence Lembo and deprive the public of being able to hear from him.
Assistant Attorney General Robert Clark argued that the statutes and regulations for SEEC are silent on the issue of the grant application deadline. But he said he couldn’t find any legislative history to show there is a policy goal in adhering to a hard and fast deadline.
There is a more than 130 page guidebook written by the SEEC. The guidebook does outline the deadlines for application and warns that candidates submitting them on the last day will have little time to correct mistakes.
“Would you concede they’re not terribly clear?” Graham asked of the guidelines.
“It doesn’t contradict their practice,” Clark said referring to the latitude the SEEC gives candidates seeking to qualify for the public grants.
New issues were raised during three hours of arguments Tuesday, including whether Jarjura’s opponent, Kevin Lembo, would still be able to gain ballot access in the general election if he lost the primary.
Jarjura’s lawyers argued that since Lembo was cross-endorsed by the Working Families Party, he could still be on the ballot in November if he lost the primary to Jarjura.
“Has that party ever won a statewide election,” Graham asked.
Howard Levine, Jarjura’s lawyer, said he doesn’t mean to be cute but he’s unable to answer that question. He said it’s his understanding Lembo wouldn’t be precluded from running as a third party or raising campaign funds.
Maura Murphy Osborne, an assistant attorney general, defending the state’s claim said that’s absolutely not the case. She said the Working Families Party does not have ballot access unless they ran a candidate for comptroller four years ago and received one percent of the vote. She said that’s not the case.
She said to the best of her knowledge the Working Families Party has no statewide ballot access. She said there’s also a sore losers clause in the election statutes, which precludes a candidate from seeking a public grant and running under another party should it fail to get on the ballot the first time.
Graham is expected to issue his decision before 5 p.m. today.