If Juliemar Ortiz’s name appears on the ballot for the August 9 Democratic primary for state senate, she’ll need court intervention.
Local and state elections officials on Wednesday said her petition effort to qualify for a primary against Democratic endorsed Herron Gaston and incumbent Dennis Bradley came up short by roughly 30 signatures. She needed 1,585 certified signatures.
In response, Ortiz announced on Wednesday the campaign intends to file a lawsuit.
The district encompasses two thirds of Bridgeport and a piece of Stratford.
At issue, in part, is when a petitioning circulator became a Democrat to seek signatures on behalf of the campaign.
Barring court relief Gaston and Bradley will go head-to-head in the primary.
Ortiz still has another opportunity to qualify for the general election on the Connecticut Working Families Party line. She’d need the WFP endorsement for November. Without that she could also wage a signature campaign for the general election.
Bradley’s federal trial for alleged connivance of Connecticut’s system of publicly funded races is now indefinitely delayed because prosecutors have appealed U.S. District Judge Victor Bolden’s decision to limit a piece of video evidence from Bradley’s 2018 announcement at Dolphin’s Cove in the East End that is a key element of the government’s case.
News release from Ortiz campaign:
Juliemar Ortiz, the progressive challenger for 23rd State Senate District, announced today that she intends to file a lawsuit against Bridgeport’s Democratic Registrar of Voters over improperly rejected petition signatures, in the hopes of qualifying for the August 9th Democratic primary before ballots are printed.
“We hope that any judge that takes a look at this case sees the clear bias happening inside the registrar’s office and helps us overcome it, an important step towards ending Bridgeport’s long history of anti-democratic practices,” Ortiz said. “It’s incredibly frustrating that we now have to waste precious campaign time fighting in court after my team and volunteers worked hard for weeks collecting the necessary signatures to earn our place on the ballot.”
The Bridgeport Registrar’s office turned petition sheets into the Secretary of State’s Office with over 300 signatures disqualified, without stating a reason for almost any. However, when Ortiz’s campaign reviewed the sheets, they found that dozens of signatures that should have been valid were rejected. The Bridgeport Registrar also selectively enforced rules about voters registering as Democrats, and did not provide what rule was being enforced, nor any prior example of it being used.
It’s also worth noting that before the Bridgeport registrar released their official count, they called the Stratford registrar to inquire how many signatures our campaign had collected there,” Ortiz said. “This highly irregular act gives us strong reason to question whether they impartially did their job, or whether Patricia Howard used her position of power to fix the scales and subvert our democratic process, depriving voters of a fair and transparent election yet again.”
Ortiz needs 1,585 signatures from registered Democrats in the 23rd District to get on the primary ballot. The campaign turned in 1,905 total signatures to the Bridgeport and Stratford registrars’ offices. As of June 22, the Secretary of the State’s office notified the campaign that they had 1,554 valid signatures, 31 short of the required number.
Last week, upon reviewing the sheets, the campaign found over 80 signatures improperly disqualified by Bridgeport’s registrar and requested that they correct the rejections by the June 16 deadline. Unfortunately, that did not happen, as the Registrar’s office claimed to not have copies of Ortiz’s petition sheets in their possession. They mailed the originals to the SOTS and did not file copies in the city’s records.
Ortiz is seeking to win over Democratic voters in the August 9 primary with the hopes of increasing women representation on Bridgeport’s male-dominated legislative delegation. Ortiz would also be the first Latina in history elected to the Connecticut State Senate.
Currently, Ortiz is collecting donations to qualify for public campaign financing from Connecticut’s Citizen Election Program. State Senate campaigns require 300 in-district donors and $17,300 to qualify.