Two registered Democrats running for the Peekskill Common Council with Republican Mayor Frank Catalina will be in court Thursday to try to reinstate enough disqualified petition signatures that would have forced a Democratic primary on September 12.
On July 28, the Westchester County Board of Elections tossed out 171 of 433 signatures submitted by Luis Segarra and Robert Sullivan, leaving them 66 signatures short of the required 328. Sullivan, an attorney, filed a lawsuit August 3 objecting to some of the Board of Elections’ findings.
Catalina, who is also an attorney, said it was clear by the number of people who signed petitions for the Peekskill United team’s nominees that many Democrats were unhappy with the Democratic Committee’s Common Council choices of Colin Smith, Ramon Fernandez and Vanessa Agudelo.
“I would put Segarra and Sullivan’s resumes up against any of them, which is why the Democrats haven’t put their resumes out,” Catalina said. “The petitions were very clear. Segarra and Sullivan like what’s going on in Peekskill. They don’t like the shenanigans going on with the Democrats.”
However, the Democratic-endorsed ticket, led by Councilmember Andre Rainey, contended Monday it was Catalina and his team that were trying to mislead voters by falsely claiming they were actually running as Democrats.
In fact, Rainey insisted his grandmother was duped into signing a petition for Segarra and Sullivan.
“If these candidates were willing to mislead and confuse my own grandmother, imagine what they would do to the rest of Peekskill,” Rainey said at the Democratic election headquarters on Bank Street. “I understand not wanting people to know you’re running as a conservative Republican, but the depths that Mr. Catalina and his team will go in order to win an election reminds me of what we’re seeing in Washington.”
“We’re not here to manipulate. We’re not here to play games,” Rainey added. “If you’re really a diehard Democrat, why not just run with the Democrats?”
Catalina maintained Rainey’s grandmother, who he said he knows well, was fully aware of what petitions she was signing.
“She willingly signed the petitions. She’s a smart woman,” Catalina said. “This small group of Democrats are extremists. They’re on the fringe and they don’t represent most of the party. Not a single one is a homeowner. They are all renters, which means they don’t pay property taxes.”
In a press release, the Democratic Committee mentioned a petition controversy Catalina was involved in more than 20 years ago in Orange County regarding fraudulent signatures, but the mayor, who is seeking a third two-year term, fired back, challenging Rainey to release all his personal and financial records.
“I’ll put my record out there any time, any place,” Catalina remarked. “Andre Rainey thinks he’s so clean and honorable and he talks about his respect for the law. Let’s see.”
The Common Council currently has four Democrats and three Republicans. Republican Councilman Joe Torres is running for reelection, but Republican Councilman Vincent “Boo” Vesce and Democratic Councilwoman Drew Claxton have opted to end their council duties at the end of the year.
Catalina’s Peekskill United Team has already secured the Republican, Conservative and Independence lines. The Democrats will also appear on the Working Families line.