With Election Day just a month away, incumbent Supervisor Sean Walter has five times more cash on hand than challenger Laura Jens-Smith, according to the candidates' latest campaign filings.
File photos: Denise Civiletti

The race for Riverhead Town supervisor has moved into the courtroom.

Democratic candidate Laura Jens-Smith has filed a lawsuit challenging the Independence Party designating petitions filed by Republican incumbent Sean Walter.

“There are questionable signatures on his petitions,” Jens-Smith said in a phone interview Wednesday.

A candidate need 61 valid signatures in order to qualify the Independence Party designation. If more than one candidate submits petitions with the required number of signatures, a party primary election will be held in September.

Walter’s petitions contain 66 signatures. If Jens-Smith can successfully challenge just six of them, she’ll have the Independence line in November without having to run a primary campaign.

Signatures can be invalidated for a variety of reasons, ranging from forgery to the signer having already signed another party designating petition. A faulty witness statement can result in all the signatures on that petition being invalidated.

“Some signed ours first and some don’t seem to be valid signatures,” Jens-Smith said.

Walter said this is the first time he’s ever filed petitions containing less than double the minimum number of signatures needed, essentially insulating them from a successful challenge.

He said he hates the idea of lawsuits like this because it often requires issuing subpoenas to the people who signed them, forcing them to come to court.

“It’s part of the process and an important part of the campaign,” Jens-Smith said.

Walter’s name will appear on the ballot on the Conservative line as well as on the Republican line. Jens-Smith has the Democratic, Working Families and Women’s Equality lines.

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