A “Wilson Pakula” is an authorization given by a political party to a candidate for public office in the State of New York which allows a candidate not registered with that party to run as its candidate.
Wilson Pakula Act of 1947 was authored by Assemblyman Malcolm Wilson and Senator Irwin Pakula. It forbids candidates from receiving the nomination of a political party if they are not registered as a member of that party unless they receive permission to enter the primary from party officials representing a majority of the vote in the jurisdiction.
In the 1940s, both the major parties in New York became concerned that members of other political parties, especially the American Labor Party (ALP), were running candidates in their party primary elections and winning the nominations. These parties had won elections with the support of the ALP in the past, accusations of the party’s ties to Communists and the increasing tension of the Cold War were making these alliances less desirable.
Prior to the law’s passage, candidates often ran in primary elections of multiple parties. It has allowed smaller parties in New York to remain relevant as candidates from the major parties often seek their endorsements to expand their appeal. This is largely because of the unusual New York practice of allowing a candidate to have his name on the ballot once for each party who nominates him, and to have all the votes for him on whatever line added together. While less common, these certificates have been given by major parties as well. In 2008, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who became an independent after winning two elections as a Republican, had to obtain a Wilson Pakula in order to run with the Republican nomination a third time. Recently, the New York Republican Party chairman, Edward F. Cox, spearheaded an effort to get a Wilson Pakula for Steve Levy, a Democrat, to run on the Republican line. This effort was unsuccessful as Levy received only 43% of the vote at the Republican state convention.
There have been questions about the meaning of this act in relation to the nomination of Gene Cook, a registered Independent, by the Town of Huntington Republican Party. The court found that the process as described above was not followed properly. There is an appeal pending.