Congressional candidate Josh Eisen, who was previously running as a Republican then withdrew his candidacy for U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey's 17th District seat being vacated at the end of 2020, wants to run again. Only now he wants to run as an independent candidate.
The Republican candidates in the race are Yehudis Gottesfeld and Maureen McArdle-Schulman and there are eight Democrats on the ballot. Both primaries are set for June 23.
The 17th District includes Westchester and Rockland counties, with registered Democrats outnumbering Republicans by a more-than-2-to-1 margin.
Eisen, a Harrison resident, owns and invests in small businesses (mostly in HR, legal and education), and he is so driven to win NY-17 that he’s returned all the contributions and is considering putting up over $1 million of his own money to finance his campaign, he told Daily Voice Plus.
He made the decision to start up his campaign again in March, but not in time to meet the deadline to run in the Republican primary because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) situation. But in order to be on the ballot in New York, candidates need to obtain nominating signatures from a certain percentage of party members. He also could not get on the general election ballot as an independent candidate because he needs 3,500 signatures by May 26.
The collection of signatures has been suspended by an executive order by Gov. Andrew Cuomo because of the danger of coronavirus spreading. But Eisen is trying to change how the process works. With things uncertain whether the suspension will be lifted in time for Eisen to run in this year's election, he filed a lawsuit against Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the State of New York over the petitioning laws during the coronavirus pandemic. Eisen was a leading Republican candidate who raised more than any other candidate on the Democratic side in a predominantly Democratic district.
"I was in the Republican race for a while. In the end, a couple of people there were not happy with me — over things that everybody knew about all along. I'm a businessman and involved in all kinds of stuff. I"m not going to relish in things that are not really relevant," said Eisen.
Eisen has been accused of harassing legal opponents and their families in email and using racial slurs according to lawsuits that involve his companies.
"I'm pro-union. I believe in not regulating abortion pills and things like that. I'm a reasonable Republican.”
He has a master's in art history, MBA and PhD. in religion from Columbia.
"I pulled out because there were two other people running. One was a firefighter from Yorktown (Republican candidate Maureen McArdle-Schulman), who was a first responder in 9/11, somebody I could respect. At a certain point, I don't think it's fair to the general election voter to have only one choice. I've been a Republican my whole life."
New York State Board of Elections Director of Public Relations John Conklin said he could not comment on the lawsuit but explained how the ballot process works.
In order to get on the ballot as Democrat or Republican, among eight affiliated parties in New York State, a candidate must be nominated by the party in order to get on the primary ballot from Feb. 25 to March 31, must collect 1250 signatures and submit them to the Board of Elections by April 2 to be on the primary ballot.
New York has two separate ballot access procedures. One of these is for designating petitions. These allow a candidate who is running under the endorsement of any of the eight official parties of New York State to run and all those (candidates) go on the primary ballot on June 23. Anyone who wants to run not affiliated with any of the eight parties, but as an independent candidate, must run as an independent nomination petition and have to file this way, explained Conklin.
A candidate can run and create their own party but they cannot use any part of an existing party name in their local party and this party only exists for this candidate and for this election.
"The independent nominating period has been suspended by the governor by executive order. If the period had gone ahead as normal and those candidates had made their filing that candidate would go straight to the general election in November. The issue (now) is their goal is to get on the ballot for the general election They don't need to be on the primary if they're not in the party system. They can't have a primary. So now the governor needs to tell these candidates when the petition period is, how many signatures they have to get and when to file the petitions. The governor said he will do that at some point in the future and that's where we are now," Conklin said.
"For independently running candidates who want to be on the ballot in the primary, Cuomo suspended the signature process, but did not offer any solutions if you want to run but are unaffiliated with a party. We will find a way through it," Eisen said.