Democratic candidate John Messer accused the Queens Democratic Party, which is backing state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) in the race, of using forged signatures to get contenders on the ballot, but the Oakland Gardens businessman and lawyer did not take the opportunity to alert the city Board of Elections.
Messer announced that his campaign had found the signature of a dead woman signed onto a Queens Democratic Party petition containing a slew of Democratic candidates, including Stavisky.
The challenger’s camp released an affidavit signed by Jesus Palomino indicating his mother Ana Rita Palomino could not have signed a designating petition 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 city Board of Elections could not have been that of my mother,” the notarized affidavit said.
But the Queens Democratic Party said it has more than 1,000 volunteers who collect about 50,000 signatures across the borough, and it is impossible to keep track of every name. Stavisky currently has about 6,000 signatures to get on the ballot for the state Senate district based in Flushing.
“If Messer had any real facts, he would have filed with the Board of Elections,” said Queens County Democrats spokesman Michael Reich, but neither Messer nor Stavisky issued challenges to the petitions.
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.
Stavisky’s camp said 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), along with several judges and state committee hopefuls.
The Queens Democratic Party often puts their chosen candidates on the same petition sheet to cut down on the number of times residents must sign.
Because the Queens Democratic Party does joint petitions, singling out 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 late 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 provided TimesLedger with 50 similar affidavits from individuals whose John Hancock appeared on the petitions without their knowledge, although he did not present them to the Board of Elections to try and get them nullified through traditional channels.
“A petition expert has examined the petitions and has pointed out the illegal and fraudulent practices,” Messer said in a statement.
In two other 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.