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U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside) appears to have been successful in his bid to undermine the candidacy of his Republican opponent in this years elections.
To be considered a candidate on the election ballot for a particular political party, those who want to run for office are required to collect a certain number of signatures from registered voters within the district. The signer of a candidates petition must be a member of the candidates party, and candidates often challenge each others petitions in court to try and eliminate potential opponents.
Earlier this month Ackerman and his lawyer, former state Sen. Manny Gold, won their challenge of Republican Perry Reichs petitions when the state Board of Elections and then the state court in Albany invalidated more than 400 signatures on Reichs petitions. Reich had collected about 1,400 signatures, more than the 1,250 needed to lock in the Republican spot on the ballot.
It was unclear why Ackerman, the dean of the Queens congressional delegation, felt the need to reach outside his own party to challenge Reichs place on the ballot.
While Reich protested Ackermans challenges as unnecessary and preventing a contested election for the veteran congressman, Gold said there was nothing abnormal about Ackermans choice to contest Reichs petitions.
Nobodys picking on him, Gold said of Reich. Were not asking of him any more than anyone else.
Reich fought off Ackermans challenges in court and although he secured a spot on the ballot on the Conservative Party line, the Hollis Hills resident said Monday he chose to withdraw his court proceedings for the Republican line.
The judge asked for (150) witnesses to confirm the signatures that Ackermans people had questioned, said Reich, who maintained asking 150 people to confirm their signatures in court was not very fair.
When asked if he would run a vigorous campaign as a Conservative, Reich said it would be an exercise in futility.
Im a Republican district leader, said Reich, who also works as a lawyer for the Suffolk County village of Atlantic Beach. If I dont have my own partys nomination, how could I go forward?
Reich said Ackerman failed in his challenge of the Hollis Hills mans Conservative petition and that he collected more than the 600 signatures needed to stay on the Conservative line.
Ackerman is a 10-term congressman who will be going for his 11th term in Novembers election. Ackermans newly redrawn 5th Congressional District stretches from northwestern Nassau County into much of northeastern Queens and includes parts of Jackson Heights, Elmhurst, Corona and Queens Village and Jamaica Estates.
The state Board of Elections opened its hearing on the challenges Aug. 12. Any registered member of the same party as the candidate and who lives in the district can file an objection.
For an objector there are numerous grounds on which to dispute a candidates signatures ranging from claims of forgery to illegible signature and from illegible date to not using a pen.
Reich said most of the objections to his Republican petition were based on legibility of the signatures. He said he might pursue other avenues to get back on the ballot as a Republican, including going to federal court.
I didnt challenge his petitions, Reich said of Ackerman. I wouldnt do that because I think people have a right to a choice of candidates. Im a strong believer that an election should be decided at the ballot box and not by a judiciary.
His attempt to run against Ackerman was the first time Reich ran for Congress, but the Queens man said he had previously run unsuccessfully for state Supreme Court justice.
Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.
©2002 Community Newspaper Group
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