Messer campaign claims a dead woman signed Stavisky’s petition to get on ballot

State Sen. Toby Stavisky (c.) is surrounded by colleagues and supporters as she announces her re-election campaign for her Flushing seat.
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A candidate for the state Senate seat based in Flushing has charged that his opponent, state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone), got onto the ballot with forged signatures, including one of a dead woman.

John Messer, an Oakland Gardens business owner and lawyer, released an affidavit signed by Jesus Palomino, saying that his mother Ana Rita Palomino could not have signed a designating petition for a slew of Democratic candidates, including Stavisky, this summer.

His mother died in February 2011.

“The petition signature shown to me that designates Toby Stavisky for the office of state senator and submitted to the Board of Elections could not have been that of my mother,” the notarized affidavit said.

For the state Senate race, hopefuls need 1,000 signatures of registered Democrats to get onto the ballot to ensure the ballot is not crowded with candidates who want to run on a whim.

“No one knows the facts here, but if anyone did anything illegal they should be arrested and prosecuted just like John Messer’s co-worker and John Messer’s political ally, who were prosecuted for identity theft and rape, respective­ly,” Pat McKenna, a campaign spokesman for Stavisky, said in a statement.

Messer countered that the statement from Stavisky’s spokeman was false and that it showed “the level of profession­alism” of her campaign.

Stavisky’s campsaid the signatures in question applied to about 20 other candidates who were on the petition and also running for office, The petition also included Community Board 11 Chairman Jerry Ianecce, who is running for the state Assembly seat currently held by Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows). Because the Queens Democratic Party does joint petitions, calling only Stavisky out was unfair, according to her camp.

Stavisky’s campaign was still in the process of figuring out what happened, and said that no one was familiar with the person listed as the signature gatherer, Ashoka Bhattacharjee.

In an interview with TimesLedger Newspapers, Palomino said he was confused and upset that his deceased mother’s name would be used as part of an election process.

“I’m just upset,” he said. “That’s not right what they did.”

Messer accused Stavisky herself of widespread fraud present in the signatures, and provided TimesLedger with 50 similar affidavits from individuals whose John Hancock appeared on the veteran state lawmaker’s petitions without their knowledge.

“A petition expert has examined the petitions and has pointed out the illegal and fraudulent practices,” Messer said in a statement. “It has been determined that, at a minimum, 10 of the petition carriers for Sen. Stavisky have participated in the fraud and blatant forgery by signing the names of registered Democratic voters to the designating petitions to place Sen. Stavisky on the ballot.”

In two cases, people whose signatures appeared on the Queens Democrats’ petitions currently have Alzheimer’s and are living in care facilities far from their addresses in the district, according to Messer’s campaign.

Messer will have the opportunity to present the findings next week at a Monday hearing at the city Board of Elections, a BOE spokeswoman said.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Updated 12:58 am, July 19, 2012
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