By Bill Parry
Three of the Democratic challengers who were in the race to replace City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland (D-East Elmhurst) were kicked off the ballot Tuesday after attorneys from the Queens Democratic Party challenged their petitions on behalf of state Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-East Elmhurst).
Moya was the first to jump into the race after Ferreras-Copland stunned the Queens political community by announcing she would not seek re-election because she wanted to spend more time with her family.
Community activist Cristina Furlong, of Jackson Heights, and former City Council staffer Erycka Montoya, of Corona, were not able to validate enough of the required 450 signatures on their petitions. Yonel Letellier Sosa, a former chief of staff for state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) failed to list the office and district he was running in on his petitions.
Sosa could not be reached for comment.
Furlong and Montoya plan to appeal their rulings before the city Board of Elections. Both will appear at an Aug. 8 hearing in Queens Civil Court to invalidate Moya’s objections. For now, Moya can concentrate his campaign for the seat on former state Senator and City Councilman Hiram Monserrate, who was expelled from the Senate in 2009 for assaulting his girlfriend and served time in federal prison for fraud.
“Every candidate is required to meet their minimum mandated petition signature totals,” a Moya campaign spokesman said. “This is the same set of rules that everyone must abide by, and Francisco Moya is proud to have received many times over the 450 signatures required to make the ballot in the September primary.”
Furlong and Montoya accused Moya and the Queens Democratic Party of acting no better than Tammany Hall, preventing their campaign for the City Council to continue — effectively stealing their right to run for public office.
“Though flattered that the Dems feel my candidacy is such a threat to a veteran like Moya,” Furlong said, “I’m appalled that County can direct the full force of their machine toward a first-timer like me, while choosing to sidestep Monserrate, who still owes over $70,000 in restitution for past crimes against this constituency.”
Furlong said she came up 70 signatures short after challenges found improper addresses and some who were not registered Democrats living in the district.
“It’s a pain-staking process proving signatures are valid using a data base,” she said. “They were challenged legally using an archaic system” designed to fend off challengers to candidates endorsed by the county party.
“How can you claim to boast democracy while suppressing choice and furthering the notion that, without ties to big donors and big money influences, citizens should not throw their names in the ring?” Montoya said. “But I will not be deterred. This is why I chose to run. Not only to fight to make New York City more liveable for people like me, but to bring to light these political games that keep us away from the table. I have grown tired of waiting my turn, asking politely, and playing by the very rules that were meant to exclude me and displace me from the civic process and my city.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr