Nardello seeks court order for spot on primary ballot

Vickie Nardello

HARTFORD — Former state Rep. Vickie Nardello is blaming state election officials for a disqualifying mistake that cost her a shot at the Democratic nomination for an open state Senate seat.

Nardello is now seeking a court order to compel Secretary of the State Denise Merrill to place her name on a primary ballot for the 16th senatorial district for Aug. 14.

A hearing is scheduled for 11 a.m. on June 25 in Waterbury Superior Court on Nardello’s requests for a permanent injunction and writ of mandamus in this unusual legal dispute.

The secretary of the state’s office declined to comment on the specifics of Nardello’s legal action, but disputed some of its claims, including responsibility for the mistake that led to Nardello’s being disqualified.

“The complaint contains allegations and assumptions that are not rooted in facts as we understand them at this time, and will be addressed in the briefs and the arguments made by the Office of the Attorney General in this proceeding,” said Gabe Rosenberg, Merrill’s director of communications.

There is no dispute that Nardello received more than enough delegate votes at the Democratic convention for the 16th senatorial district on May 21 to qualify for a primary run-off against Dagmara Scalise, the winner of the Democratic endorsement.

The current imbroglio arose because Nardello omitted the district number when she delivered the required form to Merrill’s office on May 25 that certified she had received the requisite level of support to proceed.

What happened once the omission was discovered is the subject of dispute.

According to Nardello’s court filings, Shannon Wegele, Merrill’s chief of staff, informed Nardello on June 1 that the secretary of the state’s office had added the district number after discovering that it was missing.

When Nardello checked the corrected form the next day, she saw that the 15th senatorial district had been wrongly listed. This precipitated an exchange of text messages between Nardello and Wegele.

Nardello asked if she had to do anything to correct it, and Wegele texted in reply that the problem would be fixed, court filings said. She also followed up with a telephone call on June 2 offering to travel to Hartford to resubmit the form with the correct district number, and she was advised that would not be necessary.

The deadline for filing the form was June 4, and Nardello received an emailed letter from Merrill’s office on June 5 that advised her that her certificate of eligibility had been rejected because the paperwork had not been completed and filed on time.

The letter of rejection stated that Nardello or a campaign representative had written in the wrong district number on or about May 30, and then Nardello or her representative attempted to change the district number to the right one on June 5.

In court filings, William Bloss, Nardello’s attorney, denied Nardello or a campaign representative had tried to change the certificate of eligibility, and he argued there was no reason to make a change based on the June 2 representations from Wegele.

“Voters in the Democratic primary, including Nardello, has a substantial constitutional interest and a public interest in a fair and open primary among all candidates who have sufficient support, by convention or otherwise, to appear on the ballot, and disenfranchising those voters and Nardello is not in the public interest, and would violate their constitutional right to free association and political expression,” Bloss wrote.

The 16th District seat is open because Sen. Joseph Markley of Southington decided to run for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor. The Republican nominee is Rep. Robert Sampson, R-Wolcott.

The district includes all of Prospect, Southington and Wolcott, and parts of Cheshire and Waterbury.