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Vito to rivals: You want a spot on the ballot? Fight for it

Kings County Democratic Party Chairman Vito Lopez has a message for insurgent party members: the fight is on.

The county’s Democratic Party leadership took advantage of its experience in such matters and waited until 10 minutes before the deadline last week to file a spate of challenges against the candidacies of a group of insurgent Democrats running for unpaid party slots.

It typically takes 15 minutes for such challenges to show up on the Board of Elections’ computers, but by the time that happened, it would be too late for the challenged candidates to file counter-challenges.

So they didn’t bother waiting; the insurgent candidates also filed general challenges, lest they lose their chance as the deadline came and went.

“We may be reformers, but we don’t show up to knife fights carrying library books,” said one source inside the insurgency. “We are not your parents’ progressives — this is a new day.”

Party officials say they issued the challenges because they want more time to review petitions from first-time state committee candidates Lincoln Restler, Kate Zidar, Barbara Medina and Esteban Duran — and, if the petitions are not valid, issue specific challenges that could bump the newcomers off the ballot.

It’s no coincidence that the candidates are members of the New Kings Democrats, a two-year-old Brooklyn political club that has clashed repeatedly with Lopez and his party machine.

Candidates for the state committee, a volunteer political party position, must submit 500 valid signatures. Typically, a candidate tries to submit twice as many signatures as required, a bulwark against a challenge to the signatures’ validity.

State committee members, also known as district leaders, are responsible for hiring poll workers and for electing the county leader. Despite the insurgency, Lopez’s job became much more secure last year after he created five additional at-large district leaders, loyalists who are expected to vote for him. Meanwhile, New Kings-backed district leader challengers have promised to buck Lopez’s leadership if they get elected.

Lopez, a state assemblyman and state committee candidate himself, would not comment on the petition challenges.

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