By Tom Momberg
The city Board of Elections in Queens County has ruled in favor of the two City Council contenders who had objections filed against their petitions to run for Mark Weprin’s former seat covering northeast Queens.
Sunil Ramchandani, 28, a contributor to the campaign of Democratic candidate Ali Najmi for the District 23 Council seat, filed objections against Satnam Parhar’s and Celia Dosamantes’ petitions to run for the same seat on the Democratic line earlier this month, saying they did not have the required number of valid signatures from within the district, according to the city Board of Elections. The district covers Oakland Gardens, Bellerose and Queens Village.
Ramchandani and at least two of his family members contributed $350 to Najmi’s campaign, according to Campaign Finance Board disclosure reports filed with the state Board of Elections. Ramchandani could not be reached for comment.
Najmi, a South Asian Queens-based attorney and activist who was most recently endorsed by the grassroots Latino advocacy group Make the Road Action Fund, has raised more than $57,000 and outspent all other opponents by shelling out $18,500 so far, according to the Campaign Finance Board.
Najmi, Parhar and Dosamantes, any of whom would be the very first South Asians elected to a city office, are all vying for the Democratic nod in the Sept. 10 primary election, along with at least three others, including Rebecca Lynch, who is also running on the Working Families Party line, Barry Grodenchik and Bob Friedrich. Joe Concannon is running on the Conservative and Republican party lines.
The city Board of Elections ruled in favor of Dosamantes Tuesday, dismissing Ramchandani’s second objection when coming up with the final list of candidates. Dosamantes told the TimesLedger she had well over 1,800 valid signatures on her petition to run.
Dosamantes said she was disappointed to learn somebody had objected to her petition, when she herself supports everyone who is running against her in the primary, because it gives voters a greater say in the democratic process.
“It’s a shame that the only two candidates that were challenged were South Asians. We should be empowering everyone with the ability to run for office, not disenfranchising voters and limiting their choices,” she said.
The city Board of Elections ruled in favor of Parhar last week, declaring he had over 1,400 valid signatures on his petition filed with the Board of Elections to run for office, exceeding the 450 needed.
“It is clear that there are some supporters of my opponent who are afraid of my candidacy,” Parhar said in a statement. “Unlike them, I operate from strength, not from fear, and I welcome the opportunity to offer all of the voters of District 23 the opportunity to choose who they want to represent them.”
Donald Kaplan, an aide to Parhar’s campaign, said Ramchandani has filed a lawsuit against Parhar regarding some specifications on his petition to run for office, but said it would likely be thrown out by the judge considering the recent Board of Elections ruling.
Mohammad Kahn, an aide to Najmi’s campaign, said Ramchandani is not affiliated with Najmi’s campaign other than that he contributed funds. But Kahn did say Najmi had significant concerns about whether Parhar is actually a resident of Queens.
“We feel there is substantial evidence through expenditures in Long Island listed on Parhar’s city campaign finance disclosures, that he is still living at his Cedarhurst residence, not at the Queens residence he listed with the Board of Elections,” Kahn said.
There were a few Nassau County expenditures detailed on Parhar’s campaign finance reports, but he is president of the India Association of Long Island in Hicksville, which serves residents of Queens and Long Island.
When asked, Kaplan said Parhar is a Queens resident. But regardless of his address, city Board of Elections rules say those elected to city office have 90 days to relocate to the district they represent after the date they are sworn in.