By David Schwartz
Green poster-boards listing candidates' names sit at the Board of Elections
headquarters, mock-ups of the ballots that will slide into voting
machines come primary day, September 11th. Board of Election workers
check the spellings of names and make sure the party affiliation and
district is correct. These lists of candidates for the primary are not final
-- at least
"It'll be tentative until the day before the primary," says Joe LaRocca,
the coordinator of candidate records at the Board of Election.
LaRocca and other election workers recall the story of how, long ago, right
night before a primary, a court reversed a decision and ordered a candidate
for Brooklyn civil court judge back on the ballot. New ballots were printed
up at the last minute and every voting machine in the borough had to be
changed. (Nobody seems to recall the candidate's name.)
"Anything can happen. You never know," LaRocca says. "Other states, they
have a cut-off date. All the appeals, everything, have to be done a couple
months ahead of the election.
"I'd love that," he says. "Then maybe I could have a summer vacation like
But, though it is legally possible for some of the candidates who were kicked
off the ballot to get back on, it is not likely. The last state case
finished up in late August, when Sandra Roper, Eileen
Nadelson, and Peter Sweeney got back on the ballot. Absentee ballots were
mailed out weeks ago. Disgruntled candidates can still take their cases to
federal court. It is
rare, though, that the federal courts will hear such a case
And so the promise of Campaign 2001 comes, for some, to an end. About 420 New
Yorkers, many enticed by the promise that matching public funds and the new
term limits law would create a "level playing field," became candidates for
public office this year, the most in New York City's history. Some 61 of
candidates got kicked off the ballot. Another 18 were kicked off the
Democratic ticket, but remain on a minor party line, effectively dashing
their hopes of winning.
Their experiences have given them the kind of insights into New York politics
that, it is safe to say, they would rather not have had.
WHAT'S IN A NAME, I
George Poulos, a candidate for district 22 in Astoria,
wrote a letter to the editor of the Queens Courier
pleading with the candidates not to contest each other's petitions. "It is
unfair to knock off a person off the ballot on minor technicalities."
Poulos was challenged though, and got knocked off the ballot by the Board of
Another candidate in district 22, Sandra Vassos, came up 39 signatures short
after being challenged at the Board of Elections. One type of challenge
Vassos' petitions faced was over voters who wrote their first names as
nicknames, Costantino shortened to
Costas or Gus.
Her campaign manager, John Bougiamas, said, "We should be encouraging voters
to participate in the process, not using excuses to exclude them because of
the ways they signed their names." She still remains on the Republican Party
At least one other candidate for the race has a different view. Peter Vallone
Jr., the son of the current City Council Speaker, is running for his father's
and challenging the other candidates - or, more precisely, challenging the
signatures of the voters who supported them.
"Petition challenges are part of the electoral process," said Evan Stavisky a
consultant for the Vallone, Jr. campaign.
WHAT'S IN A NAME, II
Renaldo Clarke, a candidate in district 31, said he did
not have the $5,000 to pay an election lawyer to appeal the Board's ruling.
He said that candidate Amanda Clarke challenged his petitions, so that, he
said "there wouldn't be two Clarkes on the ballot."
CONEY ISLAND LOW
Domenic Recchia Jr.
has the endorsement of the Brooklyn Democratic organization, and has raised
over $116,000, nearly twice as much as his closest competitor Susan Lasher.
Not content at his lead, Recchia Jr. challenged the signatures of two Coney
Island activists, Alfreida Davis and Cynthia Sanchez. Sanchez was kicked
off. She is not surprised by the challenge. "The people in power do
not want real representation and would rather just sit back and do nothing,"
said Sanchez, who will still be running as a candidate for the Green party.
MONEY DELAYED, A RACE DENIED
Louisa Chan in Jackson Heights, Queens, was challenged and
kicked off the Democratic line at the Board of Elections by Helen Sears and
the Queens Democratic organization. So were five other Democratic
candidates. Louisa Chan's crime? She had crossed out "NYC" on some petitions
and written out "New York City."
Chan won her court case to put her back on the ballot, but between fighting
at the board and in court, she failed to qualify for matching funds. "I was
too busy trying to stay on the ballot," Chan says.
Now, she will not get matching funds until a few days before the election.
"All I needed was a little money. But I am going to keep on going."
missed the first round of matching funds because he was briefly off the
ballot. Bader said that the challenge, which came from opponent Anthony
Pugliese, caught him by surprise. According to Bader and several other
Democrats in the race, the candidates were asked at a forum held in May if
they would challenge an opponent's petitions, and they all said "no."
A spokesman for Pugliese's campaign said that Bader did not get that many
signatures and said that Pugliese thought a candidate for City Council should
be prepared to
work hard. So Pugliese challenged the fact that some of the people who were
for Bader did not themselves live in the 39th district. The Board of
Elections ruled that
indeed they were not, and invalidated hundreds of signatures. But Bader
appealed the ruling saying that the requirement that petitioners live in the
district where they are collecting signatures used to be the law, but it is
The law was changed, fittingly, by Bader and other council candidates who
filed a lawsuit against the Brooklyn Democratic party, claiming that the
rule put them at a disadvantage. As a result of the lawsuit, the
organization repealed the rule in June. Bader appealed the board's decision
immediately, and was reinstated on the ballot four days later. "People
deserve to have their choice of candidates," says Bader. "Their vote is how
the election should be decided."
Bader has since received the maximum amount of matching funds.
THE SORROW AND THE PETTY
Norbert Chwat was a Democratic hopeful in district 29
when Melinda Katz
and the Queens Democratic party challenged his petitions. Chwat, along with
his wife and campaign manager, Estelle, went in front of the Board of
Elections to defend himself. "I was trying to give them background, and
they said, 'We don't have time for this. You've got two minutes,'" Chwat
Estelle suffered a mini-stroke while attempting to defend her husband's
petitions in two minutes. While the couple was at the hospital, the board
voted to remove him. Chwat was offered an opportunity to appeal at a later
date, but he declined, he says, because he was tending to his wife.
"I'm very upset and disgusted by these events," says Chwat. His ire was
directed in particular at Melinda Katz and the Queens Democratic party's
decision to challenge his petitions. "I've been a loyal Democrat for 40
years, carrying petitions for people like Alan Hevesi, and even Melinda
Katz. But they still objected. This is unconscionable, and I resent it
Despite the setback, Chwat continues his run as the candidate for the
Conservative party, which approached him several weeks ago. He still hopes
to focus his campaign on improving the district's sanitation, housing, and
transportation policies, and relieving overcrowded schools.
And a few weeks after the mini-stroke, Chwat reports his wife is recovering
Jeannette Evans was knocked off the Democratic ballot, she says, for
submitting a faulty cover sheet on her petition and signatures. "The Board
of Elections just wasn't very communicative whenever I had a question about
the format for the cover sheet or the petition," says Evans. "It's almost
Evans is still enthusiastic about continuing her run as the Green party
candidate. "People were very receptive," says Evans. "They seem ready for a
third party option, for a new voice and a new viewpoint. We have people in
office who are the status quo. I oppose the status quo."
Stanley Kinard, in district 36,
one of his people who gathered signatures was not a registered Democrat, and
he lost 195 signatures when they were challenged by Al Vann. Kinard was off
"I think everybody should have the right to participate in the democratic
process," said Kinard. "He's trying to deprive the people of the right to
have a real election. I would have posed a serious challenge to him in the
off the ballot for the Democratic primary. "The organization brought out a
laundry list of challenges, before they even knew what we had," says
Martinez. "This is really a dig toward grassroots campaigns."
Martinez says he turned in 1,300 signatures to the Board of Elections (only
900 are required) but his list was cut down as Angel Rodriguez's lawyers
challenged the addresses of people who signed. "We did not know it but some
people had moved or were confused about what district they lived in," says
Martinez's appeal in court failed, but he will still appear on the general
election in November as an Independence party candidate. "I feel I've been
doing really good work as an independent Democrat, so I'm still excited and
we're not going to stop," says Martinez.
After the county organization challenged Rosalind O'Neal, a former
Democratic candidate in district 31, she was
just seven signatures short of the required 900 to get on the ballot.
"This is not a process that works with the people," said O'Neal. "Let's get
candidates on the ballot and then let the people decide who they want. But
they didn't defeat me. Whoever sits in that seat is going to have to do
their job, because there are grassroots people watching." O'Neal will be in
the general election in November on the Independence line.
Julio Mercado was knocked off the Democratic ballot for district 34. "I am
thoroughly disgusted with the practices of the Democratic party," said
Mercado, a local minister. Mercado will be on the general election ballot in
November as a Conservative and Right-To-Life party candidate. He is
continuing to campaign and said affordable housing is the main issue for the
Kicked off the ballot, Imogene Baldwin-Ferguson, in district 35
, said she will
mount a write-in campaign, mailing illustrated instructions to the people
who signed her petitions. She will also station volunteers at the polling
places with pencils with her name written on them. "We're trying to make
this as painless as possible," said Baldwin-Ferguson. "I'm still
campaigning. I'm going to keep doing what I've been doing."
Elizabeth Atwood King
her spot on the Democratic ballot, in district 46. King lost her appeal in
court. "I believe that the decision is erroneous and should not have taken
place," said King, vowing: "I will continue my campaign." Meaning she will
still run as a write-in candidate. "I have momentum and name recognition,"
she said. "The system is designed to eliminate qualified, experienced
without money or political backing."
UNHITCHING THE HORSE RACE
Joe Palmer Doyle, the fire fighter running in district 32, was knocked off
the ballot after Lew Simon, the area's Democratic district leader,
challenged his signatures. "I raised $6,000 and I knocked on a lot of
doors," said Doyle. "But I just didn't have the horses I needed."
Not everyone is so glum about the election tangle.
W. Ruth Whitney was
ultimately knocked off the Democratic ballot, though she did manage to win a
partial reprieve from the Board of Elections. Later, it was overturned in
court. "The way I look at it," said Whitney. "I was on the ballot for a