Pat Sasser tries to talk to Mike Telesca. Credit: Hugh McQuaid photo

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski filed a civil lawsuit Thursday against the Independent Party and Secretary of the State Mark Kohler for what his attorneys say was a botched convention that violated party rules and ultimately left him without a second ballot line.

Stefanowski through his attorney Peter Martin of Hinckley, Allen and Snyder, claim that Rob Hotaling did not achieve the 51% of the vote necessary to win the endorsement and appear on the Independent Party’s line on the Nov. 8 ballot. 

They claim the party failed to conduct a second vote when the first vote ended in a tie between Hotaling and Stefanowski. They said it was illegal for Independent Party Chairman Mike Telesca to cast a second vote to break the tie. 

Kohler’s office declined comment on the lawsuit

“We have no comment on the litigation other than what we provided in writing to Mr. Stefanowski’s representatives, that is, the Secretary of the State has no authority to resolve disputes over party rules such as this,” Kohler said.

The letter provided to Stefanowski’s campaign says the Secretary of the State does not weigh in on the certificate of endorsement by parties.

“It is well settled that the authority of this Office does not extend to the review, certification, or approval of certificates of endorsement, nomination or the party rules under which such actions may take place,” Ted Bromley, director of elections, wrote. 

It goes onto say that the office does not examine party rules or determine the legitimacy of a party endorsement.  

The Independent Party’s interpretation of this letter was different. 

“The Secretary of the State has determined that the Independent Party caucus was legitimate and I agree with the SOS,” Hotaling said in a statement. “It is unfortunate that Bob believes that fewer choices for voters would be a good thing. As a businessman, ask Bob in what industry is less choice a good thing. In a state where the largest voting bloc is registered Unaffiliated voters, I believe Bob is wrong.”

Martin says that Stefanowski, his running mate Rep. Laura Devlin and three members of the Independent Party are aggrieved by the decision and they are encouraging the court to reject the certification of Hotaling’s nomination. 

“Following the Caucus, Chairman Telesca went on record and acknowledged that he had no authority to cast a second vote to break a tie,” Martin writes in the lawsuit.

Telesca told CTNewsJunkie last week that “I resolved the situation in what I thought was the right way. In our town committee bylaws we have that the chairman would break a tie. Apparently we didn’t put it in our state bylaw, but the thought process was still the same.”

By that time the votes had been tallied three times, several additional contests still had to be decided, and several members who had attended only to vote on a governor candidate had already left the event, he said.

“It would not have been fair to do another vote call at that point,” Telesca said. “What can I say? We’re a minor party. There’s no harm to Bob Stefanowski. He will be on the ballot. He has his line. This is about suppressing choice. He doesn’t want us on the ballot because, in his mind, it doesn’t help him. And he should get over that. He really should.”

A remote hearing on the matter will be held today.