Update as of Friday, April 29: Following the state Court of Appeals decision on the newly drawn congressional district maps, the state Board of Elections decided that the hearing for the Diane Dwire’s lawsuit against Josh Riley’s campaign is now “moot and should not proceed” due to the ruling to shift district lines again.

ITHACA, N.Y.—A lawsuit has been filed in New York State Supreme Court in Albany against the campaign of Josh Riley, the leading fundraiser in the U.S. House of Representatives Democratic primary for New York’s 22nd Congressional District. If a judge rules in favor of the lawsuit, Riley would be off of the ballot for the Democratic primary.

With approximately 4,000 signatures collected in Ithaca neighborhoods and on the Commons by volunteers and campaign staff to get Riley on the ballot for the Democratic primary originally scheduled for June, the lawsuit submitted by Diane Dwire alleges campaign fraud and the improper collection of petition signatures required to get on the ballot.

Dwire is a member of the Onondaga County Democratic Committee (OCDC). The committee is quick to remind that while the accusations were filed by one of its members, they “did not originate with the OCDC.” Francis Conole’s campaign, which has been endorsed by the OCDC, declined to comment.

You can read the full lawsuit at the bottom of this article.

The lawsuit submitted by Dwire and her attorneys accuses Riley’s campaign manager Coby Eiss and field director Ryan Paolilli of falsely attesting their witness of the door-to-door signatures collected. “Evidence shows that [Eiss and Paolilli] […] in acting as a subscribing witness under Election Law 6-132(2), and in violation thereof, did not personally witness and identify all of the signatures to which they attest as a subscribing witness,” the suit states.

Of the signatures submitted to the Board of Elections (BoE) by the Riley campaign, 1,700 of them are being challenged by Dwire.

In addition, seven voter affidavits have been submitted as supporting evidence to the lawsuit. The affidavits, which include images of either Eiss or Paolilli, allege that the voters signed the petition in front of a witness, but that the pictured individual is not the same person who witnessed their signature.

Six of the seven affidavits both list and are signed by Paolilli as the witness, though voters state that he was not the one collecting their signatures. The remaining affidavit states that Eiss was not the witness, despite his signature contradicting that.

Riley maintains that his campaign staff did not act improperly throughout the collection process.

“Our dedicated campaign team who worked their hearts out to collect signatures should be commended for those efforts, not smeared by the political establishment and the party elites. Our campaign will not back down from a fight, and we will not be distracted or deterred by these politically-motivated tactics. We are going to continue running our grassroots-powered campaign, focused on a hopeful vision for upstate New York’s future — because that’s what voters deserve.”

In opposition to the lawsuit, a letter signed by five chairs of Democratic committees in Ontario, Schuyler, Madison, Cortland and Seneca counties have accused the OCDC of threatening the process leading up to the primary. The Tompkins County Democratic Committee, though, chose not to sign the letter.

“This is a transparent attempt to use intimidation tactics with potentially serious legal consequences to force a qualified and competitive candidate out of the race,” the letter states, continuing on that the allegations are an “anti-democratic” tactic to “rig the race for your preferred candidate.”

Adding to the chorus against the lawsuit, Jim Long, Riley’s attorney, states that the objections are “blatantly frivolous” and that the signatures were obtained by the full-time campaign staff with the help of more than 120 volunteers across the eight counties in the district.

The letter from Long also accuses Dwire of libeling Riley’s campaign staff, and states that she has “no basis for these false allegations other than [the] mistaken belief that hard work cannot result in success.”

Cynthia Mannino and Linda Hoffmann of the Tompkins County Democratic Committee said that the committee’s silence thus far is due to “not interfering with the legal process to allow that to go forward because the objections were already out there and public.”

In another turn of events, the New York State Court of Appeals heard arguments Wednesday, April 27, 2022, opposing the new congressional district maps of NY-22 under accusations of gerrymandering on the part of Democratic legislators.

The court ruled 4–3 rejected the newly drawn congressional and state Senate maps, which will likely push the primaries scheduled for June back until August, finding that “the enactment of the congressional and Senate maps by the legislature was procedurally unconstitutional, and the congressional map is also substantively unconstitutional as drawn with impermissible partisan purpose, leaving the state without constitutional district lines for use in the 2022 primary and general elections.”

Riley’s trial is scheduled to begin May 4, 2022, and the lawsuit filed by Dwire can be found below.

https://www.scribd.com/document/572030422/Riley-memorandumfinal

Correction: The original article stated incorrectly that Riley is representing himself at trial, but Jim Long is representing him.

Zoë Freer-Hessler

Zoë Freer-Hessler is a general assignment reporter for the Ithaca Voice. She has covered a wide range of topics since joining the news organization in November 2021. She can be reached at zhessler@ithacavoice.com...