Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright will have another challenger on the ballot come November following a State Supreme Court ruling on Thursday.
Seawright’s campaign brought a legal challenge against Patrick Bobilin — an Upper East Side activist running for the 76th assembly district seat — last month, arguing that he was not eligible to run for office this fall due to residency requirements. According to the state constitution, candidates for the state legislature must maintain residency in New York in the five years leading up to the election.
While Bobilin was born and raised in New York, he attended college in Massachusetts and later earned a graduate degree in Chicago, returning to New York in March 2016. Additionally, Seawright’s campaign notes that at some point in the last five years, Bobilin voted, paid income taxes, obtained a driver’s license in Illinois and still has a Chicago-area cell phone number.
Bobilin, though, argues he’s maintained his status as a New York resident with deep ties to the state and has documentation showing he began a search in 2015 for a residence in NYC.
State Supreme Court Justice Carol R. Edmead agreed with Bobilin. In the decision, Edmead wrote that “the act of registering to vote and voting in another jurisdiction, in and of itself, does not conclusively determine one’s electoral residence.” She also cited the recent case in another UES district between Assembly Member Dan Quart and Cameron Koffman — in which the state’s high court dismissed Quart’s claims that Koffman was not eligible to appear on the ballot since he had been voting in Connecticut while in college — as precedent.
“This Court finds that ... Mr. Bobilin is a New York resident who did not sever the chain of his New York residence by temporarily living and voting in Illinois,” Edmead wrote.
In response, Seawright’s campaign said it reserves the right to appeal the court’s decision.
“Mr. Bobilin’s actual residency and actions differ so extensively from his rhetoric,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “The facts are clear that Mr. Bobilin does not meet the minimum requirements to run for New York State Assembly.”
“Establishment” vs. Progressives
Bobilin, on the other hand, said he felt “vindicated” by the court’s decision.
“I hope that they are not choosing to appeal as it’s disturbing to know that, during the most consequential election of our lifetime, a Democrat is fighting to put limits on democracy,” he said in a statement.
In talking about Seawright’s challenge to his candidacy, Bobilin has painted larger picture of the Democratic Party “establishment” using the courts to kick young progressives off the ballot.
“[The ruling] is a win for working people against a powerful and moneyed political establishment that uses the power of the legal system for political purposes, rather than for the good of justice,” said Bobilin.
He has also called Seawright’s challenge to his candidacy “hypocritical,” considering Seawright’s own troubles getting on the ballot this November.
Back in May, the Court of Appeals ruled back in May that incumbent Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright was disqualified from running on the Democratic Party line because of a paperwork error. She likened the Republican challenger’s efforts to kick her off the ballot to “a Soviet Union-style election” in a statement to the New York Post. She’s now running as an independent.
Pending any further appeal, Seawright, Bobilin and Republican Louis Puliafito will all appear on the ballot for the Nov. 3 general election.
[The ruling] is a win for working people against a powerful and moneyed political establishment.” Patrick Bobilin