Democrats say GOP trying to deceive voters
A candidate running for Beacon City Court judge is facing June primaries to get onto the Democratic and Working Families lines on the fall ballot — despite being endorsed by the local chapters of both parties.
Greg Johnston, a public defender and Democrat, is challenging Timothy Pagones, who is seeking a second 10-year term on the court, which handles misdemeanors, traffic infractions and other small claims. Beacon has one full-time justice who serves for 10 years and one part-time justice who serves for six years. As a Republican, Pagones won six-year terms in 1999 and 2005 and in 2011 he ran unopposed for a 10-year term.
This year, Pagones filed nominating petitions with the county Board of Elections to appear on the Republican, Conservative, Democratic and Working Families lines — the only four that remain after New York State cut the Green, Libertarian and Independence parties from ballots when they failed to receive 130,000 votes, or 2 percent of the votes cast, in the most recent presidential election.
Unlike most elected offices, judges do not have to be registered as a member of a party or get the party’s authorization to file to appear on its line in a primary.
By forcing Democratic and Working Families primaries against Johnston, who filed for both lines as well, Pagones could dispense with the first-time candidate’s challenge before the general election. Pagones dropped his Republican Party registration in 2019 to become an independent.
Pagones says his four nominating petitions reflect that independence. “Not only should a judge be impartial, but a judge should appear impartial, and that is why I am not affiliated with any political party,” he said on Thursday (April 29). “This position should go to the person who is most qualified. That is why I am giving the Democratic and Working Families party the chance to vote and have me represent them in November.”
Another variation on the theme is taking place in Fishkill, where Town Board incumbents Kenya Gadsden and Jacqueline Bardini, both Democrats, are being challenged by John Forman and Carmine Istvan, both Republicans.
Gadsden and Bardini filed nominating petitions to appear on the Democratic and Working Families lines, while Forman and Istvan filed for the Republican and Conservative lines. At the same time, Justin Golon and Robert Reynolds Jr., who, unlike the incumbents, are not endorsed by the Working Families Party, filed petitions to run on that line.
Golon’s and Reynolds’ petitions were notarized by Andrew Forman, the brother of Republican candidate John Forman, who is a former Dutchess County legislator. Both candidates also list Ronald Davis, the chair of the Fishkill Republican Committee, as a contact on their petitions. Davis is running against Yvette Valdes Smith to fill the 16th District seat in the Dutchess Legislature, which includes Ward 4 in Beacon.
What’s the overall strategy? If Golon and Reynolds win the primary and appear on the Working Families line on the November ballot, they could siphon votes from the incumbents, aiding the Republican candidates.
“The Republicans know they can’t win [the general election] on the Republican line,” said Lisa Jessup, the chair of the Beacon Democratic Committee. After running often on the now-removed Independence Party line, Republican candidates “are making a desperate attempt to disqualify candidates who received Working Families endorsements,” she said, calling it “a coordinated attempt to deprive voters of the choice to vote for these legitimate candidates on the Working Families line.”
A lawsuit filed this month on behalf of Republican candidates also asks the Dutchess Board of Elections to disqualify the Working Families petitions filed by Gadsden, Bardini, Valdes Smith and a number of other candidates in the Highlands because the signatures of party officials and notaries were not “wet,” or originals, but submitted digitally.
(Five of the six Democratic candidates for the Beacon City Council, along with Dutchess Legislator Nick Page, who is from Beacon, are named in the suit because they filed petitions for the Working Families line, but the outcome will not affect them because all are running unopposed and will not have primaries.)
Working Families officials have said the petition filings are legal, citing an executive order by Gov. Andrew Cuomo last year that allowed for electronic notarization and witnessing of nominating petitions because of the pandemic.
A judge on Wednesday heard arguments for lawsuits that have been filed in at least eight counties around the state, including Putnam, where the plaintiffs include Legislators Joseph Castellano and Ginny Nacerino, both Republicans who are running for re-election. A decision in the cases, which are being consolidated except for a Saratoga County lawsuit that has already been dismissed, may come as early as today (April 30).
This action typifies broader Republican strategies nationwide. Republicans can’t win on a level playing field, so they try to pass laws to make it harder to vote, take advantage of loopholes and file expensive lawsuits to disenfranchise voters.
Locally, we see this with the upcoming primary for Beacon City Court judge. Democrat Greg Johnston is endorsed by the Beacon Democratic Committee and the WFP. Incumbent Tim Pagones is forcing Democratic and WFP primaries against Johnston, using a loophole that allows judicial candidates to run outside their own party or without an endorsement from the parties.
In your story, Pagones claimed that “a judge should appear impartial, and that is why I am not affiliated with any political party.” This self-serving statement belies the fact that Pagones didn’t leave the Republican Party until 2019, when it became a political liability for his reelection.
Similarly, while we applaud the long-overdue shift in Beacon’s drug court, Pagones has long required a guilty plea before ordering treatment for drug addiction. The timing of this sudden change in an election year, like his recent exit from the Republican Party, strikes us as opportunistic and insincere.
Forcing a primary against Johnston is a cynical attempt to try to deny Beacon voters any choice in November. We are confident that the Democrats and WFP voters of Beacon won’t be fooled.
Jessup is the chair of the Beacon Democratic Committee.
As the former chair of the Beacon Democratic Committee and a former candidate for mayor, I disagree with the sentiment conveyed by the chair of the Democratic Committee.
I am supporting the incumbent, Judge Pagones, who has served on the bench with distinction for more than 20 years. His record is impeccable. He has presided over a Drug Treatment Court that has helped many individuals gain life-changing treatment. Lawyers, probation officers and court personnel, regardless of political affiliation, support his candidacy.
We live in a small town. Party politics should not dictate who our judges should be. As a community, we should demand that our local jurist be fair, ethical and hardworking. Judge Pagones checks all of these boxes.
On the other hand, his opponent is an unknown quantity. He certainly does not have the experience of Judge Pagones.
Judge Pagones has been accused of being “insincere” as a candidate for the primary election for the Working Families Party. What he is being insincere about I have no idea. It is clear he wants party members to vote for him and that he gathered enough support from party members to qualify for the ballot. He acted within the law. Any voter who has made any attempt to know the candidate can easily find anything they want to know about him.
That he is being misleading, disingenuous or insincere simply because he is offering a choice to primary voters is silly. I believe his critics are the ones acting to limit the choice of primary voters by casting suggestions and innuendo that his actions are improper.
Everything in the dialogue against him has been about partisan lines. None of it has focused on his qualifications, the pros and cons of his many years of service or where he stands on issues that relate to serving as a judge. The criticism is hypocritical coming from the leader of Beacon Democrats, whose predecessors have similar records of attempts to qualify candidates and/or disqualify opponents for the Working Families and Independence lines.
Cutting short the public service of an experienced, talented and civic-minded person on the basis of partisanship is irresponsible. May the person with the best qualifications win. I think that person is Tim Pagones.
In response to all the banter and false allegations regarding the Beacon Democratic primary for judge, I feel the need to stop the ignorance once and for all. I have seen numerous times people write or post how Judge Pagones keeps using an election “loophole” to primary in June.
There is no election loophole. Judge Pagones is able to primary on any line because that is the law. Gregory Johnston could have done the same. Judge Pagones decided to change to no party because he felt not only should a judge be impartial, they should appear impartial.
Yes, Judge Pagones switched his party to no party but he went in front of the Democratic Committee and explained his reasoning. For some reason this information is always left out!
We need to vote for the most qualified person, not someone in a certain political party. Think about it… if you or any of your family had to appear in front of a judge, wouldn’t you want one that is fair, impartial and experienced? Not one learning on the job, looking in a manual or when in doubt… pick C?
Judge Pagones is your person. Let’s keep Pagones in and politics out!
As a Beacon resident, and registered Democrat, I am excited to vote for Greg Johnston in the upcoming Democratic primary.
I met Greg about 10 years ago here in Beacon and got to know him while we raised our kids. I have spent a lot of time with Greg while our children played on the playgrounds at the preschool and public elementary schools of Beacon. From our many conversations over the past decade I know that Greg is not only knowledgeable about the law and its role in fairness in our society, but that he is also highly qualified for the job of Beacon city court judge.
Greg has been a public defender for the last 17 years. He has defended the most vulnerable in our society in many felony jury trials. He is also extremely well-read and passionate about making the legal system work for everyone in our community. I will cast my vote for Greg Johnston in the upcoming primary because of these qualities and qualifications and I encourage all my fellow Democrats to do the same.
Judge Tim Pagones is the best candidate to be re-elected City of Beacon Court Judge. Tim has 30 years of experience and accomplishments as a Dutchess County senior assistant district attorney, criminal defense attorney, Philipstown deputy attorney representing the zoning and planning boards and full-time city attorney. He initiated the first opioid recovery court, the first domestic violence court, created a mental health court connection program and started the Beacon Drug Treatment Court with countywide juristiction. This makes Judge Tim Pagones the best qualified candidate, hands down.
Judge Pagones’s family has a legacy of service in the City of Beacon following his father Anthony “Babe” Pagones, who was City of Beacon Judge from 1986 to 1997. Judge Tim Pagones also contributes to his community as a member of the City of Beacon Fire Department, Beacon Rotary Club and board member for the Martin Luther King Cultural Center.
We are extremely pleased to endorse Judge Tim Pagones for re-election to City of Beacon Court Judge. All voters in the City of Beacon need to review the experience and accomplishments of both candidates, which will clearly show that Judge Pagones is the best candidate in both the June primaries and in the November election.