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  • FEC Record: Advisory opinions

AO 2016-09: Candidate entitled to separate limit for new court-ordered primary election

September 20, 2016

Editor's Note: On September 14, 2016, after this AO was issued, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit issued a ruling that canceled the October 6 primary.

Candidates running in the court ordered October 6 primary election in New York's 3rd congressional district are entitled to an additional contribution limit for the new election. The court's order nullified the results of the original June 28 primary in that district.

Background
Jack Martins, a candidate in the 3rd district for New York for the U.S. House of Representatives, was running in a primary election scheduled on June 28, 2016. Before June 28, the New York State Board of Elections (NYSBOE) had determined that a potential primary opponent, Philip Pidot, had not secured enough signatures and thus failed to qualify for the June ballot. In accordance with New York state law, because the June primary was uncontested, the NYSBOE deemed Mr. Martins to be the general election nominee and did not certify any candidates for the June primary ballot.

On June 24, 2016, the New York Supreme Court ruled that while Mr. Pidot had obtained the needed number of signatures, it was too late to require the state to place his name on the ballot. Subsequently, Mr. Pidot filed suit in federal court and on August 17, 2016, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of NY ordered the NYSBOE to hold a Republican primary on October 6, with both Mr. Pidot and Mr. Martin's names on the ballot.

Mr. Martin and his principal campaign committee, Martins for Congress, asked the Commission if it could raise funds under a separate contribution limit for the court-ordered October 6 primary election.

Analysis
Under the Federal Election Campaign Act ("the Act"), candidates and their authorized committees are allowed separate contribution limits with respect to any election for federal office. 52 U.S.C. § 30116(a)(1)(A) and (2)(A). An "election" includes any general, special, primary, or runoff election where an individual, "whether opposed or unopposed, seek[s] nomination for election, or election, to Federal office." 11 CFR 100.2(a). A primary election is defined as "an election held prior to the general election, as a direct result of which candidates are nominated, in accordance with applicable State law, for election to Federal office in a subsequent election." 11 CFR 100.2(c)(1).

Contribution limits apply separately with respect to each election in which a candidate participates. 11 CFR 110.1(j)(1). Accordingly, in Advisory Opinions (AOs), the Commission has permitted separate contribution limits when a judicial decision creates a new election under the Act and Commission regulations. See AOs 2016-03 (George Holding for Congress), 2006-26 (Texans for Henry Bonilla), 1996-37 (Brady for Congress) and 1996-36 (Congressman Martin Frost, et al.).

In this case, the original June 28 primary was essentially nullified and the state of New York was compelled to hold a new election, causing Mr. Martins to no longer be the party's nominee. As a result, Mr. Martin's campaign may accept contributions for that election under a new contribution limit. See AO 2006-26.

Date issued: 09/13/2016; 3 pages.

Resources:

  • Author 
    • Dorothy Yeager
    • Sr. Communications Specialist