The Democratic primary for Mayor and three Common Council seats is on for Sept. 12 in White Plains with all candidates securing enough signatures in a mainly Democratic city to get on the ballot.
During the initial checking of signatures on petitions that were submitted to the Westchester County Board of Elections (BOL) by Democratic challengers forcing a primary, the White Plains Democratic City Committee, which had endorsed incumbent Mayor Tom Roach and incumbent Councilmen John Kirkpatrick and John Martin and candidate for Common Council Justin Brasch, opposition was expressed to the BOL after the petitions were reviewed line by line.
A lawsuit also was initiated claiming fraud on the part of the opposing slate (Milagros Lecuona Mayoral candidate, Alan Goldman, Michael Kraver and Saad Siddiqui for Common Council) because many of the signatures on the submitted petitions were by persons who did not live in White Plains or were not registered Democrats. It was considered that the manner and timing in which the petitions were delivered was intended to make it difficult for the plaintiffs in the case to adequately perform a thorough analysis, according to Court documents.
“The campaign knew better,” Thomas Abinanti, NYS Assemblyman and attorney for the plaintiffs, said in a post-trial memorandum. “Campaign Chair Caruso (for the Lecuona for Mayor campaign) admitted that he knew better from his long experience as a District Leader on the White Plains Democratic City Committee. He admitted that he knew the proper procedure…”
“Respondent Lecuona knew better as well,” Abinanti claimed. “As she testified (during the hearing), and as the petitions that she witnessed show, when she found that she had obtained the signature of someone from another jurisdiction, she did not represent that that person’s “City or Town” was White Plains. Rather, she crossed out such signatures. But that proper and honest procedure was not followed with respect to hundreds of out-of-district signatures.”
Many of the signatures had been obtained by paid petitioners, who it was claimed did not follow proper procedures. For example, the writing of dates next to some signatures was obviously done by the same hand and not that of the signer in many cases. Or, if the address was not a White Plains address, the signature was not discounted, the plaintiffs claimed.
Each candidate needed 912 signatures to get on the ballot.
In the following counter claim by White Plains resident Mark Elliott that the invalidation of his signature along with about another 500 that had written the abbreviation WP rather than spelling out White Plains, violated his right to free speech and was counter to NY State Election Law, Judge Ecker agreed that WP on the petitions could only represent White Plains in Westchester County and that those signatures should be reinstated. In doing so, each of the challengers obtained the sufficient number of names to secure a place on the ballot.
Milagros Lecuona had 878 valid signatures and with 508 WP signatures had a total of 1,386 valid signatures. The Common Council candidates Michael Kraver, Saad Siddiqui and Alan Goldman had 960 signatures without considering the 84 WP signatures, which when added in totaled 1,044 valid signatures, according to Court documents.
The case for fraud was not upheld, rather the irregularities were considered to be “mistakes,” not deliberately perpetrated by people unfamiliar with election procedures, according to Judge Ecker’s decision.
“There is no doubt innocent mistakes were made in the way we gathered our petitions. Changes have been made so we can run an effective and efficient campaign. So many volunteers worked very hard to ensure that I was able to get on the ballot and their efforts will not be in vain. I want to thank them for their support and those who signed my petitions for their support,” Lecuona said in a statement after the Court decision.
“We launched this challenge because our opponents submitted hundreds of signatures from people who obviously don’t live in White Plains, weren’t Democrats, or don’t seem to exist. The Court has now confirmed that about half of the signatures our opponents gathered were invalid for very serious reasons like these. In total, the Board of Elections and the Court agreed that less than 10% of the hundreds of signatures submitted by paid petitioners from outside of White Plains on behalf of our opponents were valid, said Barry Caro, Roach’s campaign manager.
“We will not appeal the Court and the Board of Election’s determination that our opponents barely submitted the minimum number of valid signatures required, although we strongly believe we would have won that appeal,” Caro continued.
Caro also noted that Tom Roach and his slate had decided to attend the League of Women Voters forum in early September and would not be present at the Democratic Primary Candidates Forum, Tuesday, Aug. 22 at the White Plains Woman’s Club.