ST. LAWRENCE COUNTY, N.Y. (WWNY) - A court ruling says one person can run for elected office in two separate towns. It all got started in some of St. Lawrence County's most thinly populated places.
It all started with a help wanted ad for a Piercefield town justice in January. Mark Friden found out the job had already been filled, but...
“The supervisor in Piercefield said, 'If you're interested, you could run on our ballot in November,'” said Friden.
Friden was planning a run for judge in his hometown of Clifton. So he also laid plans to run in Piercefield. With a population of just 300, Piercefield does not require town justices to live in the town.
“I live in Clifton obviously, but my family has roots in Piercefield,” said Friden.
When he handed in his primary petitions at the St. Lawrence County Board of Elections, the trouble started. Republican Commissioner Tom Nichols challenged them in Supreme Court in Canton.
“Town law stated very clearly, in my opinion, a person may hold only one elective town office and I felt it was important to uphold what I was reading in the law,” said Nichols.
However, the court ruled that prohibition referred only to holding more than one office in an individual town. It said it did not refer to running for more than one office in separate towns.
These are small places. But the court case could have a big impact. There could be other people out there thinking about running for elective office in more than one town.
Of course, the town has to allow non-residents to hold an office, as Piercefield does. An appeals court affirmed the Supreme Court decision. Nichols says he accepts the ruling.
“The system worked. We were supposed to go to the judge and ask them for their opinion and they gave it,” he said.
Friden lost his primary in Clifton. But he was the only candidate in the Democratic primary in Piercefield. So he’s now opposing Republican Jonn Kopp there.