Race for the open city council seat in the 36th District representing Bedford-Stuyvesant, Crown Heights and Weeksville took a turn for the nasty last week when one of the candidates filed a general objection to all three of his competitor’s petitions to get on the ballot.
Candidate Robert Cornegy, the male Democratic District Leader and president of Bed-Stuy’s powerful Vanguard Independent Democratic Association (VIDA), filed the objection against fellow candidates Conrad Tillard, Robert Waterman and Kirsten John Foy
Under the current city election laws, candidates running for City Council seats in the upcoming September Democratic Party primary had to turn in at minimum 450 signatures of registered Democrats from within the district to the Board of Election by last week.
All the candidates produced petitions with more than enough signatures, but Cornegy’s campaign immediately filed general objections – the first step to scrutinizing all the names on the ballot. Over the years this strategy has at minimum cost rival candidates time and money for legal expenses, and at worst, has gotten potential candidates thrown off the ballot.
“I don’t understand why the others (candidates) didn’t do it. Filing a general objection just gives us an opportunity to look closer at their petitions. It’s not my goal to exclude anyone from the democratic process,” said Cornegy.
Cornegy said he did not anticipate filing any specific objections by next week’s deadline which would start the legal process of potentially getting a candidate kicked off the ballot. If he doesn’t file specific objections, all the candidates will be on the ballot.
Tillard, whose campaign collected about 1,200 signatures, said he spoke to Cornegy personally about the challenge and was also assured no specific challenges would be filed.
“Every consultant I spoke with told me I should challenge petitions, but in light of the Supreme Court striking down the Voting Rights Act, I couldn’t in all good conscience be part of limiting choice for the voters,” said Tillard.
Waterman said Cornegy must have had a windfall of money to be able to challenge all of the candidates.
“Maybe your own numbers aren’t correct if you charge everyone else with not having enough valid signatures,” said Waterman, whose campaign collected 3,740 signatures. “If that’s the normal democratic process to challenge everybody’s petitions then everybody would have challenged everybody.”
Both Tillard and Waterman emphasized that unlike Cornegy, who has the backing of term-limited Al Vann along with the political infrastructure of the VIDA club, or Foy, who has major backing from the Rev. Al Sharpton and unions, they will continue to run a grassroots campaign appealing directly to the voters in the district.
Foy said it’s unfortunate that rather than letting the voters decide on Election Day, a campaign would use arbitrary challenges in an attempt to kick candidates off the ballot.
“Our campaign is grateful for and confident in the more than 4,000 signatures we received from Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights residents throughout the district to get on the ballot,” said Foy. “While some seem to be fixated on the machine politics of old, our campaign is focused on talking to voters about my progressive record of activism and organizing that has achieved results and my vision to move our community forward with a new generation of independent leadership in the City Council.”