Appointment Of Loren Kent As Commissioner Invalidated
Loren Kent will not be able to serve as the next Democratic Elections Commissioner for the Chautauqua County Board of Elections, unless he gets the backing of county Democrats and not just the Democratic county legislators.
The Hon. Lynn W. Keane ruled that the Chautauqua County Legislature must appoint someone whom the county Democratic Committee recommends.
In March, the county Legislature appointed Kent to the position to fill the vacancy with the retirement of Norm Green. Last year the county Democratic Committee, in a narrow vote, recommended Luz Torres.
Torres, who at the time was the Deputy Democratic Election Commissioner, was selected over Kent, who was the secretary of the county Democratic Party. Green has since stepped down from the position and announced his intention to run for county executive and Torres has been serving as the acting Democratic Election Commissioner.
After the county Legislature did not appoint Torres, Green’s name was submitted to remain in the position but he was not appointed either. His name was submitted to remain as election commissioner before he announced his intention to run for office. Judge Keane declined to rule if Green could still be the election commissioner or not since he is a political candidate.
A third name — Doris Parment — has also been submitted to the county Legislature for consideration; however, she was not considered as well. Parment served as the deputy Democratic Election Commissioner before leaving in February 2018 and Torres took over the deputy position.
When the county Legislature listed Kent to be appointed as Democratic Election Commissioner on its agenda in March, Green filed an appeal in state Supreme Court to block it. When the legislature did appoint Kent, the resolution stated it was not to be filed until the court case was settled.
Keane heard the case virtually on April 26 and issued her ruling on Friday.
After Keane’s decision was released, Kent issued a statement saying he was “disappointed with the ruling,” but also “happy this matter seems to have reached some sort of conclusion.”
He said he also fears the ruling will have much larger ramifications for Democrats in Chautauqua County in the days and weeks ahead, “perhaps dashing any hope of rebuilding a two-party system in our county.” The Democrats do not have any countywide seats and make up only 5 of the 19 seats in the county Legislature.
Kent said he wanted to be election commissioner because of his experience. “After 18 years as a state Democratic Committee member, after nearly 18 years as secretary of the county Democratic Committee, after two decades as a Democratic Judicial Convention Delegate, and as an active campaigner on so many levels, I felt that my qualifications far surpassed those of any other candidate for commissioner,” he said.
While Green is no longer the election commissioner, he is still chairman of the county Democratic Committee. He was not surprised about the court’s decision. “This ruling follows the law. It’s not unexpected,” he said.
Green hopes the county Legislature will reconsider Torres, saying she’s the “one person ready trained to do the job.”
Stephen Abdella, county attorney, said he will be conferring with those named in the lawsuit in the next few days. “After doing so we will be able to provide direction on the county Legislature’s next steps,” he said.
Legislator Chuck Nazzaro serves as the minority leader for the legislature’s Democratic caucus. He said Monday night that he was disappointed in the ruling, but didn’t feel they completely lost. He noted the caucus still has the final say; they just can’t select their own candidate. It must be someone the county Democratic Committee nominates.
“This could go on for a long period of time,” he said. “I’m hoping the Democratic caucus and the Democratic Committee can come to some kind of an agreement.”
He did say that it is possible they could appeal Friday’s court ruling, but he wanted to discuss that option with the county attorney and his fellow Democratic legislators before considering that option. “When we’re ready, we’ll issue some sort of statement on what’s next,” he said.