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Jennings out of district race on invalid petition signatures

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Jennings (D-Jamaica) was tossed from the September primary election after about half the signatures on his designating petition were found to be invalid, said Chris Riley, a Board of Elections spokesman."He was challenged and it was found that he did not have enough valid signatures on his petitions," he said.Jennings, who is not up for re-election to his City Council seat until 2006, did not return calls seeking comment.The councilman's petitions were challenged by his opponent, Charles Pringle Jr., a Springfield Gardens resident and Jamaica lawyer, and state Assemblywoman Michele Titus (D-Far Rockaway). Titus represents the Assembly district that encompasses the district leader position, and she holds the district leader title as well.The Board of Elections ruled last week that Jennings' petitions were invalid and State Supreme Court Justice Martin Schulman upheld the decision at a court hearing in Jamaica Friday, Riley said. Signatures must be written legibly by voters who are registered Democrats living within the district in order to be valid.Jennings had until Tuesday to request a line-by-line challenge of the decision, meaning each signature would be reviewed, but it was unclear if he chose to appeal the decision.Jennings was running for his seventh term as a Democratic district leader for the 31st Assembly District, which covers Springfield Gardens, Rosedale, Ozone Park and Richmond Hill.District leader seats are local party positions that represent part of a state Assembly district and serve as a liaison between the community and the Democratic Party. Leaders help nominate judicial and special election candidates and are elected every two years during the September primaries.Jennings filed a challenge against petitions filed by Pringle, who has the backing of the Queens County Democratic Organization in the race, and Titus, but those petitions were approved, Riley said.Jennings is considered an outsider by the county Democratic machine. He overcame an underdog reputation to beat the party's nominee for City Council in 2001, and last year he eked out a primary victory against party candidate Yvonne Reddick to keep his City Hall seat. In last year's race he was also taken off the ballot in a challenge from the county party leadership that Jennings called a "political lynching," but his name was restored during an appeal of the court decision.The Queens Democratic Party leaders have been working to remove Jennings from office because they deem him to be an "embarrassment," executive secretary Mike Reich has said in past interviews. Jennings released confidential information about undercover police officers in a Council committee hearing he was chairing in 2002 and ran ads in Chinese language newspapers last year thanking the Chinese community for accepting him as a black man and highlighting his personal relationships.Jennings was also charged by the Council's Ethics and Standards Committee in June with harassing two women and creating a hostile work environment for three former staff members. The committee was scheduled to hold a closed-door hearing Tuesday to allow the lawmaker to present his defense, but the date was pushed back so that Jennings' new lawyer could familiarize himself with the case, a spokesman for the City Council said.Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

Posted 7:20 pm, October 10, 2011
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