46 challenges filed in Liu seat race

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In the race to replace City Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing), even getting on the ballot is a battle.

With just under two months until the Democratic primary, 46 objections to candidates’ ballot petitions had been filed with the city Elections Board in the race for Liu’s seat — easily the most for any city race in Queens.

According to board records, as of 3 p.m. Monday all six Democrats and the lone Republican registered for the race had at least four challenges filed against them.

Constantine Kavadas received 10 challenges, S.J. Jung and Isaac Sasson each received seven, James Wu received five and John Choe and Yen Chou each received four. Peter Koo, a Republican, received nine challenges.

“At least one candidate is going to be taken off the ballot,” a source close to one of the campaigns said. “And it is going to be the most gruesome, bloody thing you’ve ever seen.”

Challenges to petition signatures are not uncommon and can often take weeks to resolve in court. In many cases, the fields in highly contested primary races are whittled down as successful challengers toss would-be candidates from the official ballot.

Despite the challenges, Kavadas remained confident.

“I’m not really sure what they’re objecting to, my petitions are rock solid,” he said.

Brian Collinsworth, a spokesman for the Working Families Party who has been working with Jung on his campaign, said he believes the large number of challenges against the Korean-American activist shows the other candidates are taking his campaign seriously.

“I think he’s probably leading the pack on challenges because he’s leading the pack on fund-raising and endorsemen­ts,” Collinsworth said. “We were really careful to vet all of these petitions.”

With matching funds, Jung would overtake fund-raising leader Chou, who opted not to participate in the public financing program. Jung has raised more than $130,000 through July 15 and if certified on the ballot is expected to receive $107,333 from the city, bringing his total to $238,823, which would edge out Chou with $228,000.

Jung and Chou are the fund-raising powerhouses in the race and their donor lists reveal a trend in support: both campaigns’ donors break almost exclusively down ethnic lines.

A review of the campaign finance records showed that much of Jung’s financial support comes from Korean Americans in the district, while Chou, who is Chinese, pulls in a large swath of her contributions from Chinese Americans.

Terence Park, whose political organization Our Political Coalition, helped state Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) get elected in November, said where funding comes from is less important than how a candidate uses it.

“I think it is inevitable that a candidate is going to get donations from where they came from,” Park said.

Kavadas, reached for comment, remains confident.

“But in terms of winning the election, building diverse support is essential,” he said. “So if Yen Chou is only spending money in the Chinese community to solidify her voting block, I think that’s a big mistake.”

The campaigns of both Choe and Wu, who are more known commodities in the district, feature a more ethnically varied donor pool but trail in funding substantially. Choe has raised $48,717 thus far while Wu has accrued $41,828 in his war chest, although both candidates are expected to get substantial boosts from public financing if certified to the ballot.

While the other two Democratic candidates, Kavadas and Sasson, have raised more than Choe and Wu, campaign finance filings show that substantial portions of their campaigns are self, or at least family-funded.

Kavadas has raised $47,265 thus far but contributed $17,500, or more than 35 percent, himself. Sasson, meanwhile, and nine members of his family kicked in $22,500 of the $62,849 his campaign has raised thus far, campaign finance records show.

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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