The sister of a close ally of Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone has filed more than 6,310 signatures -- 12 times the required number -- to wage a Democratic primary against 10-year veteran county Legis. Rick Montano (D-Brentwood).
Petitions totaling 718 pages were filed for Monica Martinez, a Brentwood middle school assistant principal, at the Suffolk Board of Elections in Yaphank late Tuesday afternoon.
Martinez, in a release, said the number of signatures says "loud and clear it is time for a new voice in our community." She noted the number of signatures is larger than the 5,260 votes Montano received two years ago when he ran unopposed.
Montano, who is running for his last term, on Monday handed in more than 1,600 signatures -- more than three times the 500 signatures required -- but downplayed the number of signatures that Martinez's backers amassed. "I don't have any reaction," Montano said. "It doesn't say anything." Montano conceded that Martinez backers "got out there first."
"It was a surprise candidacy sprung at the last moment," he said, referring to the corps of campaign workers who began seeking signatures June 4, the first day to gather petitions.
But Montano said he knocked on more than 5,000 doors, and "a lot of people who signed for her didn't know she was running against me. A vast majority who signed for her will vote for us."
Russell Lieberwitz, Martinez's campaign manager, said the campaign had 25 workers out collecting signatures, but he declined to comment on the number who were paid or volunteer.
Martinez, whose brother Tony Martinez is a Babylon Town Board member and deputy supervisor and was co-chairman of Bellone's transition team, has called Montano an "absent leader" because he refused to chair any legislative committees this year.