A State Supreme Court judge ordered the Board of Elections to put City Council member Alan Gerson back on the ballot this afternoon – and he dismissed a ballot challenge filed against candidate PJ Kim. Perhaps the biggest loser of the day was the Election Board itself, ridiculed by the judge for clinging to archaic and rigid rules. The legal challenges had left the First District Council race in limbo for weeks, as the campaigns became preoccupied with legal strategy.
Today in court, attorneys for the Elections Board said Gerson was disqualified because he twice revised the cover sheet attached to his petitions. The Board only allows candidates one chance to correct mistakes. Judge Edward Lehner seemed surprised that a candidate would be thrown off the ballot for what he called an "administrative error."
Gerson has not only been battling the Elections Board, but also one of his opponents, Pete Gleason. Ray Dowd, Gleason's attorney, argued that Gerson should have been kept off the ballot because fraud occurred "at the highest levels of the Gerson campaign." He pointed to the testimony of Renee Abramowitz, a signature collector who said petitions were altered and her initials were forged. But the judge ruled that that discrepancy could not be traced to Gerson himself and that Dowd failed to prove the allegations of fraud.
Well aware that the Gleason campaign would appeal his decision, Judge Lehner probed the attorneys for the better part of an hour. Dowd, telegraphing a strategy he'll use in appeals court, complained that he wasn't allowed to cross examine Gerson. The judge conceded that a special referee should have permitted Gleason to ask "leading questions" when he was dissatisfied with Gerson's answers. But Lehner said this did not prevent Dowd from making his case.
In a statement this morning, Dowd told The Lo-Down, "I was permitted zero
cross-examination of Alan Gerson on questions regarding the UJC fraud (United Jewish Council's role in collecting signatures – see background here).
None, zip. The case law is clear that I am permitted to treat an
adversary as a hostile witness… If you
cannot ask the questions you want answered, you can't get at the truth.
Thus, I was only
able to elicit what Gerson volunteered. There was no legal basis
for denying us this basic right."
Outside the courtroom, Gerson said he was gratified by the decision. The worst part of the ordeal, he said, was the fact that volunteer signature collectors, some of them "in tears," were hauled into court and are hesitant to take part in the process again. Asked about allegations that the United Jewish Council directed its employees to gather petitions on Gerson's behalf, attorney Lawrence Mandelker said there "is no basis to believe that is true."
In a written statement, the Gerson campaign said Gleason "failed in his attempt to abuse the judicial system in a cynical effort to deny the voters their fundamental democratic right. It calls Gleason "ethically unfit to represent the area in the City Council." The statement continues,"His campaign offers very little in what he will do to improve the lives of people in Lower Manhattan, and seems concentrated almost entirely on distorting my record and personal insults, that to this point, he has failed to disavow."
We have reached out to the Gleason camp for a response. We'll let you know what they have to say.Before the ruling, the campaign sent out a press release, "10 Questions For Alan Gerson."
In the other lawsuit looming over the District 1 race, the judge ruled there was no proof to support candidate Margaret Chin's fraud allegations against rival PJ Kim. However, he declined to impose sanctions against Chin, something the special referee who made recommendations in the case said he should consider. Afterwards, Kim said the suit was filed only to "harass us." Kim said he reached out to all of the campaigns early on in hopes the candidates would agree not to sue one another. He said no one called him back. Kim said he was pushing for sanctions against Chin as a deterrent to future candidates who decide to pursue "frivolous" legal challenges against their competitors.
In a statement, Chin's campaign said she was disappointed but would not appeal. "With less than five weeks until the Primary, the statement reads, "she believes that the important issues facing the City and the District should be front and center on the agenda."
It is very interesting that Mr. gerson’s campaign faults the Gleason campaign for denying voters their constitutional right. This is hypocrisy 101.
First, the Board of Elections removed Alan Gerson from the ballot not Gleason.
Second, Gerson engaged in the exact same election tactic that he is criticizing:
Namely, in 2003 Mr. Gerson chose to kick off Pete Gleason off the Ballot. Pete was the only other candidate in the 2003 race. Gerson did this to avoid having a primary. That does not sound Democratic.
By doing so, Gerson kept his only opponent off the ballot until the end of August, holding up Gleason’s matching funds and preventing him from fairly challenging Gerson.
What goes around comes around—– Gerson gets what he gives.
Anyone else notice how the only thing Gleason wants to talk about is Alan Gerson? It sounds like someone has a little school boy crush.
I just want to scream Alan Gerson will talk before thinking.
Gerson is upset his candidacy was challenged in Open Court, when Gerson did the exact same thing in 2003.
In 2003, Gerson tried to kick Gleason off the ballot. pete Gleason was the only candidate on the ballot in 2003. Gerson wanted to deprive the voters in 03 of a democratic race.
Now, he is claiming Gleason is preventing him from being on the ballot.
Does anyone here think that smacks of political hypocrisy?
When Gleason ran in 2003, he came on like a madman. No one knew who he was and ranted and raved, convincing everyone he was not fit for the position – in fact, he seemed crazy. Now, he continues with his maturations.
You can say what you like, but Gleason does things that are filled with rancor; we have no idea what he is capable of doing for us because he hasn’t really done much more than a less than active activist. His only recourse is to put his opponents down; because he figures we won’t see the truth with all the smoke he produces from some kind of anger issue.
Please don’t talk about political hypocrisy. And please never attempt to defend Gleason’s morals. He does some low things and has his supporters in some kind of spell.
I heard that Chin was supposed to receive sanctions… what happened to those?
PJ Kim’s attorney asked that sanctions be imposed, and the special referee recommended that the judge consider sanctions. But the judge said he did not feel they were appropriate. He did, however, say the case should probably not have been brought. He also said he hoped candidates would be more judicious about filing lawsuits against their rivals. The judge also made it clear he believes the system is seriously flawed. he said candidates, given the lack of oversight by the Elections Board and the tight timetable, are in the position of having to file suits before they actually know whether there’s enough evidence to successfully prove fraud.
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