Thursday, February 12, 2009

Ballot Challenges in 32nd District Stun Voters, Candidates

Two Knocked Off Ballot; Chapey’s Tactics Called "Witch Hunt"

By Patricia Adams

The supposed front runner for Joe Addabbo's council seat, Frank Gulluscio, was thrown off of the ballot by his opponent, Geraldine Chapey on Monday because of a legal technicality about the nature in which his validating petition was served.

The candidate quickly cried foul stating that, "the idea that this is a system meant to uphold democracy is preposterous when the signatures of thousands of voters can be rendered meaningless by a legal technicality. We must demand that we have a system where the will of the people cannot be overturned by lawyers."

"Geraldine Chapey has been on what can only be described as a witch hunt, dragging her opponents into court, causing us hours of wasted time and thousands of dollars in lawyer’s fees. She obviously feels that the only way she can win is to eliminate the competition using her lawyer, rather than in a fair election by the will of the people. I cannot imagine that the voters of the 32nd Council District would want to be represented by someone like that."

Also among the candidates not to survive the challenge was former NYPD Officer Glenn DiResto.

The hearing was originally scheduled today because Chapey's team was claiming Gulluscio did not have enough signatures to make it on the ballot. Gulluscio had vehemently denied this claim and came into court prepared with hundreds of signatures that he felt had been knocked off erroneously. However, before they had the chance to make their case, the judge threw out the entire case because of what she felt was an error in the service of the validating petition.

Gulluscio commented that, "Although I am disappointed by the tactics employed by my opponent, I look forward to pursuing all options to allow me to continue to serve the people of the 32nd Council District."

James Wu, a spokesperson for the Chapey campaign explained the matter this way, “Frank Gulluscio did not attain the ballot because he had insufficient signatures.”

Some confusion seems to have existed regarding what challenges were filed and what was ruled upon. While a challenge to the legality of Gulluscio’s use of a star on his petition was filed, that issue ultimately was never considered or ruled on. The objection to the use of the five-point star was that it’s a recognized symbol of the Democratic party, which is not allowed in the non-partisan special election petition process.

As the Elections Commissioners resumed with their regular meeting on Monday morning, before the Executive Session, there was a second call in which they decided that Gulluscio simply did not make the signature requirement. And so it was, with a swift and final decision that the candidacy of Frank Guluuscio was ended on a technicality, that which the candidate continues to maintain was in no way a fair representation afforded to the voters of the 32 Council District in the upcoming special election.

With the field now narrowed to four candidates, one of the remaining contenders, Mike Ricatto had this to say, "I am extremely disappointed that some candidates have been thrown off the ballot for the upcoming 32nd Council District Special election. The democratic process is about giving voters a choice and the opportunity to vote for candidates who share their values, ideals and vision for better government. I am against eliminating candidates from the ballot for legal technicalities. Geraldine Chapey and her legal team along with Eric Ulrich and his handlers Tom Ognibene and the Haggerty's have successfully tied up candidates in court preventing them from reaching voters. I am glad this unfortunate episode is over and I can continue my efforts to speak to voters throughout the district about the important issues that concern them."

The third candidate who remains on the ballot is Democratic District Leader Lew Simon, Geraldine Chapey’s co-leader on the Rockaway Peninsula. There is much speculation as to why Simon’s petition volume did not fall prey to Chapey’s challenge axe, but nonetheless, Simon is very disturbed over the fact that any candidates were removed from the ballot during the process of the special election.

“I have been co-leaders with Geraldine for the last 15 years. Never once during that time did she produce more than 100 signatures for the district leader race. I find it shocking that she was able to gather these many signatures but I firmly believe that there should have been no challenges in the special election, especially due to the time constraints of the process. The bottom line, according to Simon is that he was disappointed and shocked to see that people were knocked off the ballot.

Simon also raised serious questions about why there has been no record of filings at the Campaign Finance Board. “It’s obvious that Geraldine has spent money on posters, literature, mailing and staff and that nothing has been reported. I would be most interested to see an audit conducted to see if these expenditures are in tact.”

The fourth and remaining candidate, Republican District Leader Eric Ulrich was quick to express that his feelings about the process is that it is “antiquated and that our state officials really need to re-examine the rules so that citizens have the right to get on the ballot and run in an election.”

Ulrich maintains that one of the first steps toward ensuring better government in the city and state is to make ballot requirements less stringent. “It is truly unfortunate that Geraldine felt it was up to her to select her opposition instead of affording that opportunity to the voters in the 32nd to whom it truly belongs. She felt it was her choice and not theirs.”

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