Political Games

Imagine running for Congress without even trying, or meaning to.

That’s what happened to Darin Robbins and Amber Cole, two Green Party members whose names were recently submitted to the state Board of Elections by a Republican stranger.

According to the Ithaca Journal, the attempt was made by Aaron Andrew Keister, who circulated petitions and gathered enough signatures to place Robbins and Cole on the ballot for the 23rd Congressional District primary in June.

Democrats and Green Party members are pointing their fingers at Tom Reed, R-Corning, in the belief that Keister was trying to take votes away from Reed’s contender Martha Robertson, Democrat and Tompkins County legislator. However, neither Robbins nor Cole will appear on the June primary or November general election ballot, as Keister allegedly filed Robbins’ petition late and Cole’s address was invalid on the petition.

The New York Republican Federal Campaign Committee received a $2,000 donation from Reed’s campaign on March 5, according to a report filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Two weeks later, Keister received $768.47 in pay from the Republican Federal Campaign Committee, shortly before the April 10 petition filing deadline, according to the Ithaca Journal. Robbins told the Ithaca Journal that he is considering legal action against Keister, although it has yet to be determined whether he will be penalized for his actions.

Katherine Pudwill, Reed’s communication director, said Keister has never been a staffer for Reed’s team. “The only petitions Tom Reed has been worried about are the Republican, Conservative and Independence lines,” Pudwill said. “With over 300 volunteers collecting signatures in all 11 counties, we were able to successfully secure all three. Tom Reed has been fighting for jobs and the future since day one, while Martha Robertson refuses to talk about the issues that really matter to families in Western New York.”

Robertson secured the Democratic and Working Families lines, and has focused her campaign on clean energy and what she calls “investing in the middle class.”

Some Democrats believe Reed played a part in attempting to unseat Robertson from the Tompkins County Legislature in the November District 13 race between Robertson and Republican Amy Scott-Foster.

According to a December report in the Buffalo News, more than $23,000 was spent by the county’s Republican Committee in support of Scott-Foster.

Furthermore, the county’s Republican Committee reported receiving $23,000 from the Republican Federal Campaign Committee prior to the election.

Robertson won by 1,068 to 472.

According to Robertson’s website, her campaign has raised more than $1 million since April 2013, while total cash on hand is $810,000.

Reed has raised $1.9 million and has $1.07 million in unspent funds.

The 23rd Congressional District, held by Reed since 2012, includes Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Chemung, Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Tompkins and Tioga counties.