Judge rules two Bushwick Council candidates back on ballot

Darma Diaz will face two contenders for the Bushwick Council seat after all.
Jonathan Ortiz

Darma Diaz, the party-backed contender for Bushwick’s City Council seat, will face two challengers in the June 23 Democratic primary election after a judge overturned an “absurd” decision by the Board of Elections that previously left Diaz as the only candidate on the ballot. 

Kings County Supreme Court Justice Edgar Walker issued a ruling that both Misba Abdin and the aptly-named Kim Council had each collected enough signatures to qualify for the ballot — overruling the city’s election officials, who had previously claimed that they’d missed the threshold.

According to Judge Walker’s ruling, the Board of Elections and the city’s Law Department had mistakenly set the signature threshold too high after misinterpreting Governor Andrew Cuomo’s March 14 executive order that lowered the minimum amount of signatures to 135 in an effort to limit in-person contact amid the coronavirus pandemic.  

Cuomo’s directive cut short the necessary signature amount by 70-percent for all forthcoming elections, while narrowing the window for collecting petitioning signatures from registered Democrats from April 2 to March 17 — setting off a frantic, three-day window to qualify for the ballot.

That order mistakenly stated that the Council seat’s original threshold was 900 signatures, and lowered it to 270 — but in reality, the original requirement was 450, which would be lowered to 135.

And complicating matters further for the would-be politicos, elections bureaucrats and city lawyers singled out the Council primary race as the only election where the lower threshold did not apply at all — arguing that City Charter law overruled state law for Council elections, officials claimed.

Sticking to the higher standard would have left Diaz — who has the backing of Democratic Party boss Rodneyse Bichotte — unopposed in the primary for the reliably Democratic district. 

But Judge Walker overruled that determination, arguing that the governor did not “cast all health and prejudice concerns aside” for the city legislative seat only. 

The judge’s ruling granted two candidates a chance to take on the party-favored contender for the seat, which was abruptly vacated by former councilman Rafael Espinal in January. 

All other candidates, like insurgent activist Sandy Nurse and Rick Echevarría, were denied the judge’s lifeline, and will be shut out of the election, Kings County Politics reported.

Nurse — an upstart candidate that had garnered the support from local progressives like Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez and neighboring Councilman Antonio Reynoso — met the 135 count but did not get on the ballot because of a technicality that required her to send legal documents in person and not by overnight mail, according to an April 29 ruling by Walker. 

She did make the ballot for the non-partisan special election slated for the same day as the primary, but Cuomo called off that vote by executive order on April 25. 

The Judge also dismissed Echevarría’s petitions because he did not submit the right paperwork to the BOE, Kings County Politics reported. 

Whoever wins is likely to sail to victory at the November general election in the heavily-Democratic district and assume office at the beginning of 2021.