By Chris Mckenna
Times Herald-Record
July 20, 2013 – 2:00 AM

Kiryas Joel leaders began an effort this week to wrest a third-party ballot line from one of their most outspoken critics as she campaigns for Orange County executive.

Petitions circulated in the village on Wednesday and Thursday will likely force county Legislator Roxanne Donnery to run in a Sept. 10 primary for the Working Families Party line, competing against any write-in candidates. Losing to a Kiryas Joel write-in would cost Donnery a line that generated almost 1,800 votes for the last Democratic candidate for county executive in 2009.

County records show Kiryas Joel also started an enrollment drive, signing up 78 Working Families voters in just two days this week — most of them 18- and 19-year-olds registering for the first time. That brought the village’s Working Families enrollment to 111, a growing share of the party’s 893 total voters in Orange County.

Donnery, who was endorsed by the labor-backed Working Families Party, blasted the ballot challenge on Friday, attributing it to her adversarial relationship with Kiryas Joel and suggesting her Republican opponent, Steve Neuhaus, was involved. She has led opposition to the $45 million water pipeline Kiryas Joel is building.

Neuhaus said in response that he had nothing to do with the Working Families petition, which was filed with the Board of Elections Thursday.

State law lets New York candidates run on multiple ballot lines, which generally means that major-party candidates court the Conservative, Independence and Working Families lines to maximize their vote totals. Third-party leaders choose their preferred candidates, although other contenders can wage a write-in bid by filing what is known as an opportunity-to-ballot petition.

The same type of petitions have been filed in five county Legislature races by Republicans competing for the Independence and Conservative lines, according to the Board of Elections.

The Kiryas Joel petition had 93 signatures, about double the amount needed to trigger a primary. Only enrolled Working Families voters can take part in that election.

Neuhaus, the Town of Chester supervisor, was endorsed by the Independence and Conservative parties and will appear on their ballot lines in the Nov. 5 general election. Both he and Donnery also are free to petition to run on additional lines that they name.