Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Petitioning's Sign of Times - Scramble's on for Ballot Spot by Lisa L. Colangelo - NY Daily News

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GATHERING signatures on petitions is the first, and sometimes toughest, task for political candidates.

They have less than six weeks to knock on doors, visit train stations and scour shopping centers to fill petitions to secure a place on the September primary ballot.

Petitions must be submitted to the Board of Elections by July 15, but the endurance test doesn't stop there.

Insurgent candidates without party backing must fight off inevitable court challenges to the validity of signatures - a method favored by incumbents and party leaders to avoid primary battles.

"You have to get at least four times the amount of signatures required," said Lynn Nunes, a Democrat running against state Sen. Shirley Huntley in the 10th District primary. "Anything less and you leave yourself vulnerable."

Election law requires Assembly candidates to gather 500 signatures and state Senate candidates to collect 1,000 between June 8 and July 15.

Bob Friedrich, who wants to run against Assemblyman David Weprin in the Democratic primary, said he is targeting registered Democrats in the 24th District.

Assembly candidate Steve Behar, a Democrat and one of six candidates vying for the 26th District seat being vacated by Ann Margaret Carrozza, said he believes the whole petitioning process should be reformed.

"There should be some system where over a year or so you collect a smaller number of signatures and it's audited by the Board of Elections," said Behar, a lawyer from Bayside.

Carrozza's decision not to seek reelection has Republicans and Democrats scrambling. Queens Democrats have endorsed Ed Braunstein, a legislative assistant to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. Queens Republicans tapped lawyer Vince Tabone, who is also executive vice president of the Queens GOP.

The crowded field also includes former Assemblyman John Duane and lawyer Elio Forcina on the Democratic line and a second GOP candidate, retired city Police Officer Rob Speranza.

Assemblyman Michael Gianaris' bid for state Senate opens his western Queens seat in the 36th District. Aravella Simotas, Jeremiah Frei-Pearson and John Ciafone - all lawyers - are planning to run in the Democratic primary.

State Sen. Jose Peralta's former Assembly seat in the 39th District is also up for grabs, sparking a possible primary battle between disgraced former state Sen. Hiram Monserrate and Francisco Moya, a community leader backed by the Queens Democratic Party.

In Assembly District 38, Democratic incumbent Mike Miller is expected to face off with education advocate Nick Comaianni.

Anthony Miranda, executive chairman of the National Latino Officers Association, plans to run against Democratic Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry in the 35th District.

Two Democrats are looking to oust state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky in the 16th District. Retired scientist and lottery winner Isaac Sasson has promised to use his own deep pockets to counter any petition challenge. Lawyer and businessman John Messer is also eying the seat.