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Battle for the ballot moves into next phase

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Petitions for City Council races were due in the Brooklyn Board of Elections office at midnight, July 16, and now for Brooklyn’s political junkies, this is when the fun begins.

Over the past four weeks, candidates have been collecting thousands of signatures in order to secure their place on the ballot for the September 15 primary, but that process is not guaranteed. Renowned election lawyers Carl Landicino, Jerry Goldfeder and former State Senator Marty Connor have be pouring over their clients petition sheets in order to check for inaccuracies. In the coming days, they will do the same with their opponents’ sheets.

The three men will likely play a significant, though largely behind−t­he−scenes role in the next stage of the Brooklyn city council campaigns: petition challenges.

“The procedure is that general objections must be made within three days of the petition being filed and specifications filed six days thereafter,” said Connor, who is advising Jo Anne Simon in the 33rd District and Councilmember Diana Reyna, running for reelection in the 34th District. “Some campaigns file general objections as a matter of course but nobody in Brooklyn has told me to prepare general objections.”

According to Simon’s campaign manager Kelly Donnelly, she hired Connor because of his reputation as one of the best election lawyers in the state.

“We are running against a county machine that very much wants to see its hand−picked candidate win this seat,” said Donnelly, whose team has collected over 3,500 signatures. “With Marty on our team, the campaign is afforded confidence and peace of mind from possible distractions intended to tie us up. This way, we can focus all our attention and efforts on speaking to the men and women of the district about the issues that matter most to them.”

Council candidate Evan Thies brought in Goldfeder, a former advisor for State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, for much the same reason. According to sources with the Thies campaign, Goldfeder is unlikely to challenge any opponent’s ballots, meaning that he is being retained primarily for defensive reasons. They do not expect to receive any challenges either but are not releasing the number of signatures they have collected.

“We feel terrific about the petitioning process, and are proud that so many volunteers came out to help from all across the district,” said Kevin Lawler, Thies’ campaign manager. “We hope to turn that energy and momentum into votes over these final weeks of the campaign.”

Landicino is the lead attorney representing the Kings County Democratic Party and will likely be representing Council candidates Steve Levin (33rd), Maritza Davila (34th) and others backed by the party. As of this week, he has not filed challenges to opponents’ petitions though there are still several days before the deadline to file general objections.

Some political observers believe that Levin may look carefully at Isaac Abraham’s petitions and perhaps Thies’ as well, if they had not collected enough signatures by the deadline. Other candidates in the 33rd District who could face challenges, possibly from Jo Anne Simon, include Ken Baer, Ken Diamondstone, and Doug Biviano, though the Simon campaign has not indicated a preference to engage in legal action.

“We’re not particularly concerned, no,” said Wilson Karaman, campaign advisor to Biviano. “We’re certainly aware of the possibility of a challenge, but we have enough signatures where it would be something of a waste of resources if an opponent were to go down that road.”

New Kings Democrat founder and attorney Matt Cowherd agrees with Karaman, noting that challenges are a political strategy that tends to be employed mostly by incumbents.

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