The special election to replace disgraced former state Assemblyman Anthony Seminerio is still on after a federal judge rejected Democratic candidate Farouk Samaroo’s bid for an injunction last week, effectively barring Samaroo and two other Democratic challengers from the ballot
Mike Miller, the Queens Democratic Party’s nominee for the seat, will face Donna Marie Caltabiano, the Queens Republican Party’s nominee, in the special election Sept. 15.
But even though the injunction has been defeated, Samaroo will continue his challenge to the constitutionality of announcing the special election.
“She forwarded it on to the magistrate judge for trial,” he said of the judge. “I do intend to prosecute the issue.”
In the meantime, Samaroo and fellow contender Nick Comaianni are abandoning any plans to challenge Miller and Caltabiano as independent candidates. Ozone Park attorney Albert Baldeo, a Democrat who led the field in fund-raising, did not return calls seeking comment Tuesday.
Samaroo, Comaianni and Baldeo would have had 12 days from Gov. David Paterson’s Aug. 14 announcement to file new petitions as independents in the special election.
“It’s a fool’s errand,” Samaroo said, noting he plans to face Miller in next year’s Democratic primary. “It’s idiocy to believe that any candidate, even with the support of the county party, could collect 1,500 signatures in what would effectively be six calendar days.”
Comaianni, president of Community Education Council 24, pointed out the financial limitations he faced.
“I would need $40,000 and an army of people, which I don’t have,” he said.
In his suit, Samaroo, a former aide to ex-Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin, claims the special election announced — then recalled, then re-announced — earlier this month by Paterson “resulted in a deprivation of [Samaroo’s] and his supporters’ federally protected right to vote and an egregious miscarriage of justice.”
Samaroo, an Indian American, also said a special election — where nominees on established political party lines are chosen by the organizations’ executive committees — would disenfranchise the district’s minorities, which his suit claimed comprise 61 percent of the Assembly district.
The Queens Dems’ endorsement of Miller, a Community Board 5 member and Glendale resident, came from a district leaders’ vote Aug. 17. Seminerio, who retains his district leader title despite pleading guilty to federal corruption charges, was entitled to a vote in the process but did not attend the meeting, Comaianni said. Miller was also endorsed by the Conservative Party.
Although Samaroo said he was not invited to the gathering and was not present, both he and Comaianni accused U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), the Queens Democratic Party chairman, of tricking one of the district leaders into switching her vote.
Comaianni said that after learning two of the three leaders supported him for the spot, Crowley met with them one by one. Comaianni alleges that during one of those meetings, Crowley told Eleanor Errante that fellow District Leader Arlene LoMastro was changing her vote to support Miller.
“Arlene voted for Comaianni,” Comaianni said of the ensuing vote. “Obviously they tricked the poor lady. She is 80 years old.”
LoMastro, Queens Democratic Party Executive Secretary Michael Reich and another source close to the dealings all denied Crowley deceived Errante about LoMastro’s vote.
“She didn’t tell me that he said I was voting for Miller,” LoMastro said of Errante, though she confirmed Crowley met with each of them. She added she was frustrated with Paterson’s decision to call a special election.
“I have to agree with Farouk and Albert Baldeo that it should have been a regular election,” she said. “Who am I and who are two other district leaders to decide who should be an assemblyman in an important position like that?”
Reich said the Assembly’s looming legislative calendar was a major factor in Paterson’s decision.
“They’re very close to picking a company to run a racino at Aqueduct, and that’s in the heart of the 38th,” he said. “We can’t wait till November.”
Seminerio resigned from his seat in June after admitting to setting up a fake consulting company that took in more than $1 million in illegal payments, including $390,000 from Jamaica Hospital and its Medicaid-managed health plan. Baldeo, Comaianni, Samaroo and Miller announced their candidacies soon afterward.
Comaianni criticized Paterson for allowing the Assembly candidates to proceed for two months under the primary election model.
“Paterson should have said in the beginning, ‘I’m going to call this race ... and it will be a spec election,’” he said. “That’s what he should have done instead of wasting our time, our money, our volunteers.”
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz
©2009 Community News Group
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