Five would-be council members removed from race at Board of Elections hearing
The list of candidates running in the special election for the City Council’s 17th District was cut almost in half after the Bronx County Democratic Committee challenged the validity of several candidates’ petitions at a Feb. 8 Board of Elections hearing. Six hopefuls remain in contention to succeed Maria del Carmen Arroyo in the Feb. 23 election. Arroyo resigned suddenly on Dec. 31.
The Board of Elections commissioners unanimously agreed to kick candidates Elliot Quinones and John Perez off the ballot because neither met the minimum requirement of 450 signatures after the Bronx Democrats filed objections to the candidate petitions Quinones and Perez had submitted.
In addition, the board ruled that candidates Helen Foreman-Hines and Carlton A. Curry be removed from the ballot for filing their paperwork late.
Amanda Septimo, the district director for Rep. Jose E. Serrano, was disqualified because she initially named her party Democratic Values. Since the special election is nonpartisan, candidates are forbidden from naming their party lines after an existing political party because doing so could “create the possibility of confusion,” according to board regulations.
Although Septimo changed her party name to Bronx Values before the Jan. 19 filing deadline, the Board of Elections said the change came too late. Petitions had already been circulated and military ballots were sent out with the original party name due to the special election’s relatively short, 45-day timeframe.
Prior to the hearing, Septimo said the process distracted from which candidate could best address the community’s needs.
“I think it’s bad for democracy because I think there’s a lot of power in choice,” she said, but added when reached after the hearing that she would not challenge the board’s decision.
Only Foreman-Hines and Curry attended the hearing at the Board of Elections office in lower Manhattan. Both urged the board commissioners not to remove them from the ballot; to no avail.
“I don’t see that I did any harm to anyone. It was a mistake made,” said Foreman-Hines, who claimed to have missed the deadline because she forgot the paperwork on her kitchen table, before beseeching the panel, “Please forgive me.”
Curry said he had lost his paperwork for certification under a seat of his car, adding that he showed good faith by remedying the problem and bringing it in, albeit late.
“By bringing it down myself it shows that I wanted to be a part of the process,” he said.
Yet the board pointed out that Curry’s paperwork was notarized on Jan. 20, one day after the deadline.
“The law is what it is and unfortunately I’m not really in a position to help you,” said Frederic Umane, the board’s secretary.
The Bronx County Democratic Committee, which presented most of the petition challenges, has endorsed Rafael Salamanca, the district manager for Community Board 2, as its candidate.
Rachael Fauss, director of public policy for good government group Citizens Union, said political parties routinely get involved in nonpartisan elections.
“The same players still exist for who seeks to influence elections and the county party still plays a huge role in terms of influencing the elections,” she said. “It’s not surprising to see such a strong presence by the county at the petition challenges.”
The group has called for a nonpartisan system in which board commissioners are selected based on professional experience, similar to the way leadership positions are chosen in city agencies, instead of being appointed by county representatives.
The president of the Board of the Elections, Bianka Perez, was nominated in 2014 by the State Assembly speaker and former chairman of the Bronx Democratic County Committee, Carl Heastie.
Candidates wishing to appeal the Board of Election’s rulings have three days to file with New York State Supreme Court.