Ackerman knocks Republican opponent off ballot

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U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside) appears to have been successful in his bid to undermine the candidacy of his Republican opponent in this year’s elections.

To be considered a candidate on the election ballot for a particular political party, those who want to run for office are required to collect a certain number of signatures from registered voters within the district. The signer of a candidate’s petition must be a member of the candidate’s party, and candidates often challenge each other’s petitions in court to try and eliminate potential opponents.

Earlier this month Ackerman and his lawyer, former state Sen. Manny Gold, won their challenge of Republican Perry Reich’s petitions when the state Board of Elections and then the state court in Albany invalidated more than 400 signatures on Reich’s petitions. Reich had collected about 1,400 signatures, more than the 1,250 needed to lock in the Republican spot on the ballot.

It was unclear why Ackerman, the dean of the Queens congressional delegation, felt the need to reach outside his own party to challenge Reich’s place on the ballot.

While Reich protested Ackerman’s challenges as unnecessary and preventing a contested election for the veteran congressman, Gold said there was nothing abnormal about Ackerman’s choice to contest Reich’s petitions.

“Nobody’s picking on him,” Gold said of Reich. “We’re not asking of him any more than anyone else.”

Reich fought off Ackerman’s challenges in court and although he secured a spot on the ballot on the Conservative Party line, the Hollis Hills resident said Monday he chose to withdraw his court proceedings for the Republican line.

“The judge asked for (150) witnesses” to confirm the signatures that Ackerman’s people had questioned, said Reich, who maintained asking 150 people to confirm their signatures in court was “not very fair.”

When asked if he would run a vigorous campaign as a Conservative, Reich said “it would be an exercise in futility.”

“I’m a Republican district leader,” said Reich, who also works as a lawyer for the Suffolk County village of Atlantic Beach. “If I don’t have my own party’s nomination, how could I go forward?”

Reich said Ackerman failed in his challenge of the Hollis Hills man’s Conservative petition and that he collected more than the 600 signatures needed to stay on the Conservative line.

Ackerman is a 10-term congressman who will be going for his 11th term in November’s election. Ackerman’s newly redrawn 5th Congressional District stretches from northwestern Nassau County into much of northeastern Queens and includes parts of Jackson Heights, Elmhurst, Corona and Queens Village and Jamaica Estates.

The state Board of Elections opened its hearing on the challenges Aug. 12. Any registered member of the same party as the candidate and who lives in the district can file an objection.

For an objector there are numerous grounds on which to dispute a candidate’s signatures ranging from claims of forgery to illegible signature and from illegible date to not using a pen.

Reich said most of the objections to his Republican petition were based on legibility of the signatures. He said he might pursue other avenues to get back on the ballot as a Republican, including going to federal court.

“I didn’t challenge his petitions,” Reich said of Ackerman. “I wouldn’t do that because I think people have a right to a choice of candidates. I’m a strong believer that an election should be decided at the ballot box and not by a judiciary.”

His attempt to run against Ackerman was the first time Reich ran for Congress, but the Queens man said he had previously run unsuccessfully for state Supreme Court justice.

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

Posted 7:16 pm, October 10, 2011
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