A New York State Supreme Court judge today denied Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu–the dark horse primary opponents of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his running mate Kathy Hochul–a temporary restraining order that would block state Democratic Party funding of pro-Cuomo and pro-Hochul voter outreach efforts.
Justice Carol Edmead refused to block the New York State Democratic Party Committee’s funding of literature, websites and phone calls encouraging voters to support Mr. Cuomo and Ms. Hochul. Mr. Wu and Ms. Teachout, both law professors, had claimed that such expenditures were illegal under state election laws banning a party from favoring any given candidate in a primary and from coordinating independent expenditures with a candidate–but Mr. Cuomo’s and Ms. Hochul’s attorney, ex-State Senator Martin Connor, argued that a federal court struck down those statutes in 2006 for violating the First Amendment rights of political parties.
“The petitioner’s case is an example of ‘a little bit of knowledge can be dangerous,'” Mr. Connor said. “I don’t agree with all these loopholes. But they’re there.”
Ms. Edmead agreed, calling Ms. Teachout’s and Mr. Wu’s case “threadbare.”
“How can you overcome clear and convincing documentary evidence that this law cannot be enforced?” Ms. Edmead demanded of Arthur Schwartz, attorney for the plaintiffs. “You cannot present documentary evidence today to sustain a temporary stay.”
Mr. Schwartz will have the opportunity to argue the case in front of another judge on Monday–the day before the primary. Leading election lawyers Jerry Goldfeder and Sarah Steiner, however, told the Observer the Teachout-Wu suit was “not valid” and “quite a stretch,” respectively.
Mr. Wu, nonetheless, maintained that the suit had merit–and that it was worth pursuing just to create new precedent. The Columbia law professor maintained that a state court had upheld the law in 1999, and that the federal court that blocked the state law did not have the power to overrule that earlier decision
“A federal court cannot enjoin a state court,” Mr. Wu said.