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2 candidates for Harrison’s seat pulled off ballot

Two Democrats running for the city council seat in Flushing were removed from the primary ballot last week after the city’s Board of Elections ruled that they had submitted invalid petitions, a decision which both are fighting in court.

The candidates — Martha Flores-Vazquez and Adrian Joyce — said they appeared at the Board of Elections Monday morning, with their attorneys, to challenge the rulings. Both Flores-Vazquez, a community activist, and Joyce, a former chairman of Community Board 7 in Flushing, said they were scheduled to appear in State Supreme Court in Queens this week in an effort to get a judge to overturn the decision of the Board of Elections.

As of Tuesday evening, the judge had not issued a ruling, the candidates said.

The two candidates were taken off the Democratic ballot as a result of challenges filed by Barbara Baruch, who contributed to the campaign of John Liu, the candidate widely viewed as having a strong shot at being the first Asian elected to the City Council. He has been backed by the Queens County Democratic Party.

Board of Elections records show that Baruch had also unsuccessfully challenged the four other Democrats running for the Flushing council seat that stretches into Murray Hill and Auburndale: Ethel Chen, Richard Jannaccio, Linda Mandell and Terence Park.

Republican candidate Ryan Walsh as well as Green party candidates Evergreen Chou and Paul Graziano remained on the primary ballot since, according to Board of Election records, they were not challenged.

In a phone interview Monday morning, Flores-Vazquez said she and her attorney were reviewing the petitions she had filed to see whether the board could make valid the ones that were ruled otherwise. She said she had 869 valid signatures, short of the at least 900 council candidates need to get onto the primary ballot.

“There’s always a lot of frivolous stuff,” she said, referring to the nearly three dozen reasons why a petition entry can be challenged.

She will still be running on the Independent line in the Sept. 11 primary, but Joyce will be out of the contest if the court does not rule in his favor.

It is customary for candidates to challenge one another’s petitions because the fewer candidates there are in the primary, the better the chances are of making it onto the November ballot. For candidates removed from the primary ballot, their only recourse is to turn to a judge by filing an appeal in State Supreme Court to be put back on.

Candidates who are not satisfied with the judge’s ruling may appeal all the way up to the State Court of Appeals, the final arbiter, said Naomi Bernstein, a spokeswoman for the Board of Elections. But the board will only add a candidate back on to the ballot with an order from a judge, which she said would hopefully be issued before Sept. 11, the day of the primary.

Any registered voter is allowed to file a challenge against a candidate’s petition, a move that leaves open the possibility of also bringing a challenge to the courts if unsatisfied with the ruling of the Board of Elections. A candidate does not have to file a challenge, however, to bring legal action.

Usually, the courts hear arguments brought by candidates who have been removed from the ballot. But in some cases, they issue rulings on suits brought by candidates who choose to bypass the Board of Elections and challenge their competitors directly in court, since judges have broader legal scope than the Board of Elections.

James Wu, an adviser to Chen, said in an interview Monday that a supporter of Chen’s, Teresa Young, had initially filed challenges against Joyce, Jannaccio, Mandell, Flores-Vazquez and Liu, though not against Park. He said that Young withdrew all of the objections except against Liu.

But she did rescind a lawsuit that she filed in court against Liu’s campaign — and Liu withdrew the one he filed against Chen — because there was little likelihood that the two parties would reach a resolution, said Wu and Evan Stavisky, a spokesman for Liu.

Stavisky said, however, that Liu’s attorneys were pursuing legal action against Jannaccio and Park, both Democrats, whom the Liu campaign believes do not have valid petitions.

Reach reporter Chris Fuchs by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.

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