If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, county Democrats really, really like the Republicans.

The committee has recruited at least 13 registered Republicans to run under its banner.

“It’s a complete show of failure in the leadership of the Republican Party,” said county Democratic Committee Chairman Daniel Rivera. “They feel betrayed.”

It’s a strategy Republicans have used to their distinct advantage for at least four years. Their majority in the Legislature is made possible only by registered Democrats willing to vote with them.

The county’s Republican chairman didn’t seem to think the straying candidates will have any effect on the success of his candidates this year.

“The Republican party has never been stronger,” said Henry Wojtaszek.

Asked if the concentration of Republican defectors in the eastern end of the county had anything to do with tax breaks for AES, Wojtaszek simply said, “No.”

While Rivera said registered Democrats who received backing from county Republicans were “bought and paid for,” he said he isn’t sure if his committee would be financially supporting any disaffected

Republicans.

The Democratic friendly Republicans are running in local races and two of them, Charles Dahlquist and Merrill Bender, are running for

Legislature.

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Petition season is under way, so chances are the unfamiliar face at the door isn’t looking to sell you something.

The petitions went into circulation on Tuesday and are due back at the Board of Elections between

July 16 and 19.

Signing a petition doesn’t mean you have to vote to that candidate, or even that you support that candidate. It just means you, as a member of your political party, are giving the candidate the right to appear on the ballot.

Two years ago, charges of fraudulent petitions landed candidates and committee members in court.

Neither chairmen from the major parties reported any problems thus far.

Petitions bearing more than one candidate’s name have caused questions among voters, but so far, the petition process is going well, according to Democratic Elections Commissioner Nancy Smith.

For the record, those petitions are legal. But be mindful that you can only sign petitions for as many candidates in one race as there are open seats.

For example, don’t sign for more than one county Legislature candidate or more than one coroner candidate.

Once the initial wave of petitions passes, petitions from candidates seeking to be a write-in candidate in a primary will hit the streets.

Those petitions, which go into circulation July 3, are known as opportunity-to-ballot petitions and if enough signatures are collected, they allow voters to write in any candidate’s name on primary ballots.

A candidate would want permission to be a write-in candidate if they aren’t registered in the party and aren’t endorsed by the local committee.

Other election dates: July 15 is the first deadline to file financial disclosure forms and Aug. 24 is the last day to register to vote in a primary.

As for those new voting machines?

Don’t hold your breath.

The state is receiving bids this month from companies seeking to test a pool of new machines to determine which ones live up to the state Legislature’s requirements.

The first company hired to vet the machines lost its federal certification and a new company had to be hired.

Until new machines are certified, counties can’t decide which ones to buy.

Republican Election Commissioner Scott Kiedrowski said he doubted if the machines would be in place by the 2009 elections.

Others think they’ll be in place by the September primaries next year.

A February primary is scheduled in the presidential race, but primaries for state Legislature races and Congressional races will still be held in September, Smith said.

Contact reporter Jill Terreri

at 282-2311, ext. 2250.