Reform Party of New York State

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Reform Party of New York
ChairmanCurtis Sliwa
Founded2014 (2014)
HeadquartersStaten Island, New York
Electoral reform
Political positionBig tent
National affiliationNone
New York State Assembly
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New York State Senate
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New York City Council
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Other elected offices1[1]
Website (national affiliate) (qualified state party)

The Reform Party of New York State is the New York branch of the Reform Party of the United States of America. The branch was founded in 2000 after the Independence Party of New York, the Reform Party's original affiliate in the state, broke off as its own party. Since the split, the Reform Party has never qualified for automatic ballot access and has rarely run statewide candidates.

Another party bearing the Reform Party name, which adopted the name after qualifying for ballot access and had a contentious relationship with the national party, existed from 2015 to 2018.

Branch of the National Reform Party[edit]

Logo of the national affiliate

The national Reform Party was affiliated with the Independence Party of New York from 1996 to 2000, during which time Jack Essenberg was the Chair of the Independence Party, but they separated in 2000. The national Reform Party has had a state branch in New York [2] since 2007. It did not achieve ballot access in any statewide races between 2007 and 2014, but did get various candidates onto the ballot in local elections, most prominently Carl Person, who ran under the Reform Party banner in the 2013 New York City mayoral election. There have been hundreds of candidates offered the nomination and endorsement of the Reform Party in New York State between 2007 and 2014. Bill Merrell, national Reform Party chair for 2017-2020, has not authorized the current qualified state party use of the Reform Party name.

The New York branch of the national Reform Party is managed by volunteers of the national party. The New York State Chair of the national Reform Party is Bill Merrell, who serves as the Chairman of the national Reform Party as well.

The national Reform Party and the Stop Common Core Party were working together from January 2016, after Stop Common Core Party changed its name to Reform Party, until September 2016. The two parties were unified on many issues including an anti-common core platform. The Stop Common Core Party received permission to use the Reform Party name as long as they agreed to be directly affiliated with the national Reform Party. However, in September 2016, a group affiliated with Curtis Sliwa ran candidates for the party's State Committee and elected Sliwa as Chair, replacing Bill Merrell. That takeover was disputed in court by Merrell.

The national Reform Party has consistently claimed trademark infringement on the state Reform Party and other parties that have attempted to use the name "Reform Party" in the state, including Kristin M. Davis, who was required to change the name of her party. New York state law does recognize trademarks in regard to the names of political parties, and United States trademark law (the Lanham Act) only covers marks used in commerce including politics. For example, the Libertarian Party of New York was initially forced to call itself the "Free Libertarian Party" but won the right to use its name over the objections of the Liberal Party of New York, who complained the names were too similar. Merrell has stated that use of the name is a trademark violation and a complaint may be filed to protect the legal trademark and the exact legal name.

New York State ballot-qualified Reform Party[edit]

In 2014, Rob Astorino, the Republican Party's nominee in that year's gubernatorial election, petitioned to create the "Stop Common Core Party," a single-issue ballot line designed to declare opposition to the Common Core State Standards Initiative and act as a counterweight to the Women's Equality Party, a new party similarly created by Astorino's Democratic opponent, Andrew Cuomo. Under New York State Law, the Stop Common Core Party would qualify to automatically appear on the ballot for every election through 2018 if it received at least 50,000 votes in the gubernatorial election, a threshold it narrowly achieved despite Astorino's overall loss.

On February 17, 2015, Astorino announced he would change the name of the party to the "Reform Party" to broaden its appeal beyond a single issue.[3] The party initially ran into opposition from the Conservative Party of New York State, who balked at allowing another ballot line to cross-endorse its candidates.[4] Marie Smith became the chairperson of the state Reform Party,[5] but she stepped down and Bill C. Merrell of the national Reform Party replaced her as State Chair on January 12, 2016.

The national Reform Party lost control of the state party in September 2016 when Curtis Sliwa and Frank Morano led a hostile takeover of the party, installing Sliwa as chairman. Merrell sued to invalidate this takeover but lost.[6] The original decision from Albany-based Supreme Court Justice Christina Ryba dismissed this suit. Much of her order was based on technical grounds, but she also argued that the fundamental logic behind the challenge was "flawed in several regards." "We're appealing it," Merrell said. "We feel the decision has no basis in law." An appeal was filed as to Supreme Court Justice Christina Ryba's decision.[7] Justice Ryba did not address the issue of trademark violation. The party also signed an agreement with the national Reform Party, who claim they now are in violation and are not permitted by the national Reform Party to use name Reform Party name. The state party continues to use the name, however, without permission of any kind. The National Party has issued a cease and desist notice at present.

National Reform Party presidential candidate Rocky De La Fuente was not on the New York party line and ran in New York State as a write-in candidate.[8] No candidate appeared on the state Reform Party's Presidential ballot.[9]

The qualified Reform Party endorsed perennial candidate Sal Albanese in the 2017 New York City mayoral election[10] and Ben Walsh in the 2017 Syracuse mayoral election. Walsh won, despite not having the endorsement of either the Democratic or Republican Parties (running only on a fusion ticket alongside the Independence Party of New York).[11]

Sliwa remained Chair of the state Reform Party in 2018. Looking to maintain the party's ballot access, Sliwa considered multiple candidates, including cross-endorsements with potential Republican nominees or with the Libertarian Party of New York, or nominating their own candidate (Joel Giambra had spoken of his interest in the Reform Party line).[12] The party executive committee deadlocked between Giambra and presumptive Republican nominee Marc Molinaro in April. At the party convention on May 19, the party nominated Molinaro and running mate Julie Killian as the gubernatorial ticket, incumbent Democrat Thomas DiNapoli for Comptroller, and offered former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara the attorney general nomination, which he did not accept; Sliwa's wife Nancy, running on a single-issue animal rights platform, then defeated two challengers (Mike Diederich and Libertarian nominee Christopher Garvey) in an open primary to secure the attorney general nomination.

The Reform Party finished last among all parties on the ballot in the 2018, far short of the 50,000 votes needed to maintain ballot access and organization.[13]


  1. ^ Duncan, Brenda. "Election 2017: Results for Syracuse mayor, other Onondaga County races". Retrieved November 8, 2017.
  2. ^
  3. ^ Reisman, Nick (February 17, 2015). Astorino files for Reform Party, officially. Time Warner Cable News. Retrieved February 17, 2015.
  4. ^ Lovett, Ken (March 9, 2015). Dan Donovan ignores Reform Party at Conservative Party chair's request. New York Daily News. Retrieved March 9, 2015.
  5. ^ Janison, Dan (September 1, 2015). Upstate upstart would crash Cuomo's party. Newsday. Retrieved September 2, 2015.
  6. ^ Mahoney, Bill (October 31, 2016). "Upstart group wins legal battle over control of the Reform Party". Politico. Retrieved October 31, 2016.
  7. ^ Mahoney, Bill (October 31, 2016). "Upstart group wins legal battle over control of the Reform Party". Politico. Retrieved October 31, 2016.
  8. ^ New York has approximately 30 declared write-in candidates, list still isn't final.
  9. ^ Cattaraugus County, NY sample ballot, November 8, 2016 election. Retrieved October 22, 2016.
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ "Reform Party of New York & Women's Equality Party lose ballot status". News Growl. 2018-11-07. Retrieved 2018-11-07.

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