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Lucky 13? Candidates hustle to get on ballot - It’s a last minute dash to be in the running for Clarke’s vacated City Council seat

The sprint is on. By midnight of January 16th, a whopping 13 candidates had filed petitions with the city Board of Elections in the race to fill the vacancy in the 40th Councilmanic District formed by Yvette Clarke’s accession to Congress. The 13 who hope to make the ballot in the special election scheduled for February 20th are Mozell Albright, Mathieu Eugene, Karlene Gordon, Jesse Hamilton, Gerry Hopkins, Jennifer James, Zenobia McNally, Mohammed Razvi, Wellington Sharpe, Harry Schiffman, Joel Toney, Leithland “Rickie” Tulloch, and Ferdinand “Freddy” Zizi. To make the ballot, each candidate must have a minimum of 1,002 valid signatures. Accepted wisdom is that candidates who hope to make the ballot should file two to three times the number of required signatures to weather potential petition challenges. Challenges, in which candidates attempt to knock opponents off the ballot are likely to occur in the next few days, with the period of general and specific objections extending until January 25th, and a hearing on the petitions to be held on January 30th. According to one political activist, the attorney for one candidate, after looking at the petitions, determined that at least five have problems, and is working to get those five candidates off the ballot. Another insider admitted hearing a rumor that, when all was said and done, there would be six people left on the ballot – which six, the insider didn’t know. One issue that has come up, according to another source, is the color of the petitions used. Because this is a non-party election, the source said, candidates are, “Allowed to use any color other than the colors attributed to specific political parties (green for Democratic, pink for Republican). At least two candidates carried green petitions. The question is whether they can be disqualified.” A law requiring candidates in non-party elections not to use the pink and green petitions, is on the books, added the pundit. However, he noted, “It has not been enforced. It’s not something the Board of Elections looks to enforce, and, in the end, I don’t think anyone is going to go after other candidates on this because they don’t have enough money to do that.” The number of candidates, pundits confirm, can make the difference in this race. With the vast majority of candidates being either Caribbean-American or African-American, a large number of people on the ballot dilutes the likely voter pool, making it easier for Schiffman, the one white Jewish candidate in the race, or Razvi, a Pakistani-American, to muster the votes needed to capture the seat. Political insider Rock Hackshaw noted, “Whoever wins could win with less than 1,500 votes.” One insider said that, in his view, there are, “Three tiers” of candidates. The first tier, according to the pundit, includes Hamilton, Sharpe and Eugene, all of whom have specific advantages. Because he just won a race as district leader, Hamilton, the source said, “Has proven he can win.” Rumors suggest he might get the backing of a powerful union, DC-37, as well as the backing of the Kings County Democratic Organization, the source added. Eugene moves to the top, according to the source, because of Clarke’s backing. He may also get the backing of another union, 1199, said the insider. “You can’t rule him out in a crowded race,” the pundit remarked. As for Sharpe, the source noted, “He’s run before. He has the best name recognition, and the best numbers of anyone in the race who’s ever run. People say he’s lost so many times. So did Abe Lincoln.” For the second tier, the source named Toney, James, McNally, Schiffman and Zizi, for a variety of reasons. In particular, the insider pointed out, James is, “A very experienced political person. She’s been around all through the city with successful candidates.” While her biggest problem is lack of name recognition, said the insider, “She’s coming in with heavy hitters in terms of political operatives.” Schiffman, the insider added, could capitalize on a base of white voters in the district to capture the seat, while McNally could use her previous run against Clarke (in which she got about 1,100 votes) to her advantage, as well as her involvement in the current brouhaha involving the Tilden Avenue homeless shelter. Toney can count on support from the political club that was behind Sylvia Hinds-Radix’s ascent to a judgeship, said the source, and Zizi has, “People behind him who are very energized. “The Haitians are angry at Yvette (for having backed Eugene over Zizi),” the insider added, “to the point where they are talking about getting somebody to challenge her.” The district, which runs from Empire Boulevard on the north to Foster Avenue on the south, as far east as Albany Avenue and as far west as East 8th Street, is approximately 80 percent minority. The election will determine the person who will fill Clarke’s vacated seat till the end of 2007. Whoever wins will have to keep his or her machine well-oiled, to run again this year. There will be a primary in September, and a general election in November, to fill the seat for the remaining two years of the term.

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