By Joe Anuta
State Senate candidate John Messer bypassed a city agency to bring his challenge to Queens Supreme Court alleging his opponent, Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone), got onto the ballot using fraudulent signatures, but Stavisky’s camp dismissed it as a frivolous exercise.
“The Stavisky petition is wrought with fraud and irregularities,” said Messer, who is running against Stavisky for the second time in hopes of capturing the Senate seat centered around downtown Flushing, with two arms reaching outward to the east and west along the Long Island Expressway. “It is clear that this petition should be reviewed in its entirety and appropriate action should be taken against those who were involved in the identity theft of voting citizens.”
Messer decided to file his objections to the petitions in Supreme Court rather than the city Board of Elections.
Any Democratic candidate for Senate needs 1,000 signatures from registered party members in the district to get onto the ballot. Stavisky’s petitions were disseminated by the Queens Democratic Party and also included about 20 of the party’s other anointed candidates involved in elections from judgeships to district leaders, according to the party.
Stavisky has about 7,000 signatures gathered by about 130 individuals, according to her camp.
But Michael Manoussos, a lawyer for Messer, contends in the document that Stavisky does not have the required 1,000 signatures to get on the ballot, and details a laundry list of complaints about the way the Queens Democratic Party filed the petitions, which include those collected for Stavisky and a host of other hopefuls.
“John Messer is cynically exploiting the court system in order to disenfranchise 7,000 voters who signed Sen. Stavisky’s petitions,” said campaign spokesman Pat McKenna. “Messer is doing everything he can to distract voters from his shameful business record and Republican loyalties.”
According to a Democratic insider, about 130 people carried petitions for the Queens Democratic Party in Stavisky’s district, but in the entire borough about 1,000 people collected 50,000 signatures, making it difficult to know who every petition carrier is.
The allegations ranged from the bizarre, the name of a dead woman appeared on one of the petitions, to the mundane, like the pages were not listed in sequential order.
Messer’s legal team gathered more than 50 affidavits signed by people who claimed their signatures mysteriously appeared on the petitions, although the documents are not admissible in court, according to Stavisky’s team.
Messer’s legal team contents that the fraud in Stavisky’s petition is so prevalent that it warrants throwing out the entire document and preventing the longtime lawmaker’s name from appearing on the ballot in September.
At one point the document even bordered on the poetic. Amid terse legal vernacular the brief at one point read, “The well has been poisoned.”
A court date has been set for Aug. 6, when Messer’s team will present their findings in an attempt to have Stavisky thrown off the ballot, a prospect the senator is not losing sleep over, according to Democratic insiders.
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4566.