WATERBURY — A lawyer representing Secretary of the State Denise Merrill reiterated Tuesday that Merrill doesn’t have the authority to include Democrat Vickie Nardello in the 16th Senate District primary after a filing error, but told a Superior Court judge there was no objection to the court ordering Nardello’s inclusion.
“She would not object to this court’s order or appeal it,” said Maura Murphy Osborne, assistant attorney general. Judge Salvatore Agati, hearing arguments for the first time after another judge recused himself last week, made no decision Tuesday.
Nardello is asking the judge to allow her on the August ballot to challenge Dagmara Scalise, the Southington Democrat endorsed by the party to run against Rep. Rob Sampson, R-Wolcott. The seat is open because Sen. Joe Markley, R-Southington, opted to run for lieutenant governor.
Nardello, a former state representative, qualified for the primary by winning enough support during the party's nominating convention, but Merrill determined she couldn't appear on the ballot due to a filing error.
Nardello's paperwork initially didn't specify a district, but she claims Merrill's office informed her she was "all set," according to filings. The paperwork was later updated, but indicated she was running for the 15th district.
William Bloss, Nardello’s lawyer, said texts between his client and state election officials were the key facts in the case and showed that Nardello was told shortly before the deadline that the filing problem would be fixed.
“It was just a matter of changing a ‘15’ to a ’16,’” Bloss said.
The situation was complicated by Democratic Party officials who, unknown to Nardello, amended the form and communicated with state officials about Nardello’s issues.
Osborne said the situation had a “very unique set of circumstances” and that party officials do have an interest in making sure their candidates get on the ballot.
“I can’t imagine this is going to happen very often,” she said. “There’s a lot of things that people could have done better.”
Obsorne also said that Nardello was “told that she doesn’t need to do anything further by a state official. She’s given an assurance.”
Agati said he realized a decision needed to be made soon. The primary is Aug. 14 and ballot information must be submitted to the state by the end of next week.
After the hearing, Nardello said she believes the case is going “very well,” and she continues to campaign. On Thursday, her application for a campaign grant through the Citizen’s Election Program is slated to go before the State Elections Enforcement Commission. She raised enough money to qualify for public campaign financing, but she also needs to be on the ballot to be eligible.
“Everything is ready to go,” Nardello said.