Photo by Christina Santucci
By Joe Anuta

A Queens Republican Party pick for City Council was disqualified Tuesday after what political observers called a colossal blunder, but the candidate suggested she may have been the victim of sabotage.

Flushing resident Sunny Hahn was endorsed by the GOP in the race to unseat Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing), and needed 450 signatures from registered Republicans for the city Board of Elections to put her name on the ballot.

The party submitted more than 1,000 John Hancocks on her behalf in a process called petitioning, she said, but added the board ruled Tuesday that more than two-thirds were for another candidate or were not even from the district where Hahn was running.

“My petitions were screwed up by incompetence,” Hahn said after learning her fate, “unless they did it purposely.”

Hahn said the Republican Party, which is involved in a fierce civil war, offered to carry her petitions door-to-door to get the necessary signatures. Phil Ragusa is the county chairman of the party and Robert Hornak is the executive director.

“I was assured by the county executive director repeatedly, more than once a week, that my petitions were going fine and would be safe,” she said.

Hahn insinuated the party may have done a poor job on purpose so Koo, who originally won the seat as a Republican and later became a Democrat, would not have an opponent. The councilman’s chief of staff is a member of the county party.

But Ragusa dismissed any allegations of subterfuge, and said Hahn should have been checking on her signatures like every other candidate.

“They were in here for six weeks. She should have checked how many she had for herself and we could have put out resources where she needed them,” Ragusa said. “She can’t just walk away and blame us 100 percent.”

Another candidate endorsed by the GOP, Dennis Saffran, was in the office every day double checking, Ragusa said, adding that any suggestion that the party deliberately mucked up the process was absurd.

“I was happy to have somebody in the GOP to run against Peter. We did not make any concerted effort to keep her off the ballot,” he said. “We would restore her if we could.”

During the two weeks before the signatures were due July 11, Hahn said she also hired an 18-year-year-old who collected signatures outside the district.

In a voicemail obtained by TimesLedger Newspapers, Hahn is heard berating the young politico.

“You must be paid by Peter Koo, my opponent, to ruin my race … You a–hole. You are going to hell,” said Hahn, who dropped about $10,000 of her own money into the campaign, according to finance records.

The activist’s signatures were called into question by a member of the Koo campaign, which a spokesman said was standard practice.

“You can’t blame the boogieman or county. You are responsible as a candidate and as a team to take ownership of the petitions, to review them nightly, daily and when they are binded. That is politics 101,” Koo Chief of Staff James McClelland said. “If you’re running for governor of New York, you can’t get signatures from Arizona. In this case, we’re talking about the 20th Council District. But signatures from the 24th District might as well be from Arizona.”

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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