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Jackson files lawsuit in race for Spigner seat

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After watching New York 1 Sept. 25, Stephen Jackson felt confident that he had won the Democratic primary in the race for City Councilman Archie Spigner’s (D-St. Albans) seat.

On Election Night, the local cable news channel ran preliminary results in a box at the bottom of the screen, which showed Jackson leading Leroy Comrie and Helen Cooper-Gregory by several percentage points.

When the Board of Elections certified Comrie, Spigner’s district manager, as the winner of that contest Oct. 4, Jackson filed a $5 million lawsuit against Comrie, Spigner, the Board of Elections and the Queens County Democratic Party.

The Board of Elections’ official tally showed Comrie won the primary with 29 percent of the votes, just ahead of Cooper-Gregory with 28 percent. The board said Erica Ford had nearly 16 percent of the vote, followed by Jackson with 9 percent, and Larry Smith with 12.5 percent.

Jackson is suing to have the board void its certification of Comrie as the victor. According to the Board of Elections, Jackson came in fourth out of five contenders in that race.

“We are not talking about a process that was pure,” Jackson said of the election.

His case is currently pending in the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, Jackson said.

Jackson said he wants to “get to the bottom” of what happened Sept. 25 for the voters’ sake, but Spigner discounted Jackson’s claim of voting irregularities.

“He is suing me for $5 million!” Spigner exclaimed. “He could have been at the poll sites — he wasn’t there — he could have been at the Board of Elections — he wasn’t there. Get a life!”

Jackson said he made the decision to spend his campaign money on voter pamphlets and not to have staff monitor the polls.

“I believe in the integrity of the election process,” Jackson said, “but in hindsight, I certainly would have done that.”

Comrie said he could understand Jackson’s predicament, but he should have been at the poll sites Sept. 25 with all the other candidates.

“I feel sorry for his campaign workers, who were duped into believing something that wasn’t true,” Comrie said.

Calls placed to New York 1 were not returned by press time, but Jackson said the news channel was standing by the figures it said it had acquired from the Associated Press after the polls closed Sept. 25.

Sam Boyle, AP’s New York Bureau chief, said “we looked over what we transmitted and we didn’t find any transmission that had him ahead.”

Jackson said the lawsuit was important not because of his own candidacy, but because of the people who voted for him or tried to vote for him.

“I still don’t know what happened. I still did not get an explanation with regards to reports from New York 1 and with regards to reports from the Board of Elections,” Jackson said, “but I am vigorously pursuing this matter.”

Jackson said he was not surprised to see on TV that he had won, because he thought his name was well-known in the community. Jackson is a private attorney who has represented high profile black figures such as the Rev. Al Sharpton and O.J. Simpson, among others. He ran unsuccessfully for state Assembly against incumbent Vivian Cook (D-South Ozone Park) in 1994.

“I certainly believed that the name recognition factor was there,” Jackson said. “I was surprised a day and a half later to find out that I had not won.”

The election was unique this year since the Board of Elections did not begin counting the results until a few days after the primary, due to computer problems caused by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Until the results were officially certified by the board Oct. 4, media outlets relied on results tallied by the Associated Press.

When asked if he thought the disruption caused by the World Trade Center disaster affected the results displayed on New York 1 Sept. 25, Jackson said: “Out of the thousands of candidates in the city, I was the only person affected.”

He also said that if there was an error made by New York 1 or AP, then it should have been corrected sooner and a disclaimer should have appeared on TV.

“With 16 hours of a series of fluctuating figures, you would think that at some point the problem would have been corrected,” Jackson said.

Reach reporter Betsy Scheinbart by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 138.

Posted 7:25 pm, October 10, 2011
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