By Joe Anuta
After a secret from his past surfaced, Jeff Gottlieb dropped out of the race for a Queens congressional seat last Thursday, and the man who replaced him bowed out a day later.
Gottlieb, a 70-year-old city Board of Elections employee, went into panic mode after revelations emerged that he was charged with arson in the 1970s, according to a source close to the campaign.
The longtime fixture in the Queens Democratic Party, who worked for several lawmakers, told those in his petition-gathering staff that Queens politicians had threatened to reveal his secret in the past. Nevertheless, Gottlieb was shocked it came out and days later announced he would bow out, the source said.
Stephen Green, a Rosedale lawyer, was set to take Gottlieb’s place, but Green declined to run a day later.
In addition, a woman who answered the phone at a residence listed as T. Mittman said Dr. Robert Mittman, a Bayside allergist, decided not to run after he was overwhelmed with calls to his office. His decision was confirmed by a receptionist there.
But according to the Board of Elections, the deadline to decline was Friday, meaning Mittman cannot get off the ballot unless his signatures are thrown out or he does so through the courts, the board said.
Some of the other eight remaining candidates who gathered enough signatures to qualify for the ballot were having them scrutinized this week in what is known as the objection process.
The objections are ostensibly filed by citizens in the district. A Flushing man named Jeffrey Wang filed the most general objections, challenging the signatures of every candidate in the race except for state Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing).
A Rego Park woman, Sheryl Fetik, challenged the signatures of all the Democratic candidates, who along with Meng include City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows), television producer Juan Sheng and Mittman. When reached by phone, Fetik said she was not affiliated with a particular candidate.
On the Republican ticket, Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) had his petition challenged by Wang and a woman named Evelyn Volin.
Joseph Tiraco, who is running on the Independence Party ticket, and Evergreen Chou, who is running on the Green Party ticket, also had their signatures challenged by Wang.
Although a single person files the general objection, a source who has run several campaigns said it takes hundreds of hours and a team of people to pore over the signatures and find mistakes. It is a tactic often used to knock opponents off the ballot.
Four of the candidates picked up more endorsements this week and last.
Halloran received the backing of the Fire Marshals Benevolent Association in Bayside.
Lancman received the nod from 1199 SEIU Health Workers, along with the Local 338 Retail, Wholesale, Department Store Union, United Food and Commercial Workers.
Meng was endorsed by United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1500 and a group of South Asian leaders from groups including the Alliance of South Asian American Labor and a Richmond Hill-based nonprofit called Seva.
Crowley was endorsed by the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association and Transport Workers Union Local 100.
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4566.