Judges boot Darma Diaz challengers from B’wick Council race again

Darma Diaz.
Jonathan Ortiz

And then there was one — again!

Bushwick Council candidate Darma Diaz will face no opponents in the June 23 primary election after all, after an appellate court overturned a previous ruling and kicked two upstart candidates off the ballot.

Five Appellate Division judges ruled Monday that all candidates for the upcoming election needed to collect 270 petitioning signatures to meet the minimum requirements — rather than just 135, as Supreme Court judge Edgar Walker ruled on April 29.

Walker’s decision initially gave a lifeline to both Misba Abdin and Kim Council, who had met the lower threshold — until two volunteers for the Diaz campaign successfully appealed the decision.

The appellate division’s determination claimed that a March 14 executive order from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, which lowered petition thresholds in light of COVID-19 by 70 percent, applied to state law’s mandate, which usually requires candidates to obtain 900 valid signatures — which meant that a 70 percent reduction made the new threshold 270. 

City law, which the lower-court judge had based his ruling on, requires candidates to collect only 450 signatures — which would have made the lower threshold 135.

Abdin and Council both met the lower requirement, but the justices ruled that there was “no evidence” that Cuomo intended his order to bring the minimum to 135, and not 270.

Both booted candidates said they plan to file an appeal with the state’s high court, the Court of Appeals, later this week, and Abdin slammed the May 11 decision, saying the judges misinterpreted Cuomo’s directive and that the Board of Election and Diaz violated his civil rights by denying him continue to take part in the race.

“Today’s decision by the Appellate Division is an outrage, a blow to our democracy, and must be overturned,” Abdin said in a statement.

The order puts Diaz — a party-backed candidate and current district leader in the area — alone on the ballot for the primary and effectively guarantees her victory at the November general election in the heavily-Democratic 37th Council District, which also stretches into Cypress Hills, Brownsville, Ocean Hill, and East New York.

The seat has been empty since then-Councilman Rafael Espinal abruptly resigned in January to take on a new gig as a head of the Freelancers Union.

Prominent insurgent activist Sandy Nurse and candidate Rick Echevarría were previously kicked off the ballot on technicalities in judge Walker’s April 29 rulings.

Correction (Tuesday, 10:30 am): A previous version of this story incorrectly labeled the Appellate Division the highest court in New York. The state’s high court is the Court of Appeals, to which parties in this case might still make their case. Brooklyn Paper regrets the error.

Update (Tuesday, 10:30 am): This story has been updated to include the fact that Abdin and Council plan to appeal the ruling.