From left, Mike Telesca, John Mertens and William Bloss of the Independent Party consulting how to break a tie vote Tuesday night. Telesca is the party chairman, and Bloss is its lawyer. MARK PAZNIOKAS / CTMIRROR.ORG

The gubernatorial campaign of Republican Bob Stefanowski took a preliminary step Wednesday towards a legal challenge of the Independent Party’s nomination of Rob Hotaling for governor.

In a letter to Mike Telesca of the Independent Party, a lawyer for Stefanowski alleged violations of party rules in the tie-breaking vote that denied Stefanowski a cross endorsement and second line on the November ballot.

Telesca, the chairman of the minor party, said he read the letter and its demand that he preserve paper ballots and other materials related to the nominating caucus as a prelude to a lawsuit.

“Let’s just put it this way: It’s sour grapes,” Telesca said. “This is one more [example] of the very rich demanding their way.”

Peter J. Martin of Hinckley, Allen & Snyder wrote to Telesca, essentially putting him on notice of a coming lawsuit based on several factors, most notably Telesca casting a tie-breaking vote Tuesday night rather than ordering a second ballot.

Martin also questioned whether ineligible voters participated in the caucus, which ended in a 79-79 tie.

“We believe that a court reviewing these facts will conclude that the Independent Party’s purported nomination of Mr. Hotaling violated party rules and law such that the Secretary of State cannot permit Mr. Hotaling’s name to be printed on the official ballot as the candidate of the Independent Party of Connecticut for the November 8, 2022 general election,” Martin wrote.

William Bloss, an elections lawyer who has represented the party, said state law grants great discretion to minor parties in how they endorse candidates, and he is confident that the caucus results Tuesday will stand up in court.

“The State of Connecticut Elections Enforcement Commission is on record as stating minor parties are not obligated to follow either their bylaws or any bylaws in making nominations,” Bloss said.

“The statute that refers to nominations for minor parties says that minor parties ‘may’ follow their bylaws, but SEEC has interpreted that as wholly discretionary,” Bloss said.

Gov. Ned Lamont, a Democrat, is cross-endorsed by the labor-backed Working Families Party, as was the case in 2018. Stefanowski was cross-endorsed by the Independent Party in 2018.

But this year, Telesca said, the party is trying to establish itself as an independent voice and alternative to the major parties by nominating Hotaling, a party member and senior vice president at Webster Bank.

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.