One crazy night at the Board of Elections

Incumbent Ralph Perfetto (left) and challenger Kevin Peter Carroll savaged each other for about an hour in the first Web-cast debate for a district leader position in Brooklyn history.
Community Newspaper Group / Andy Campbell

How crazy was it at the Board of Elections as the witching hour for would-be candidates approached? It got so ugly that squeaky clean district leader wannabe Kevin Peter Carroll had to break a blood oath, that’s how ugly.

See, here’s the deal: Candidates that want to get on the ballot had until the stroke of midnight to file the reams of signatures they sweated through the summer to collect. But even if they handed in their petitions, some of those same candidates had to sweat it out again as they waited to see — again, by the stroke of midnight — if any rivals had challenged their petitions.

So that’s why Carroll, who is running against Bay Ridge powerhouse Ralph Perfetto, was up at the ungodly hour of 11:55 — and in the ungodly place of Manhattan. Now as any political junkie knows, Carroll and Perfetto had agreed not to challenge the other’s petitions so that they would both be on the ballot for the innocuous, non-paid post of Democratic district leader, whose few responsibilities include hiring poll workers on election day and electing the chair of the Kings County Democratic Party.

Carroll may be a freshman, but he wasn’t about to make a rookie mistake. Despite the pledge, there he was at the Board of Elections, waiting with a fist full of challenges just in case Perfetto broke his word.

And sure enough, minutes before deadline, in walked a contingent of Democratic Party officials with reams of papers. Panic! Were the officials there to challenge Carroll? Were a bunch of nameless party flunkies about to get Kevin Peter Carroll off the ballot for district leader, halting an inevitable rise to the presidency of the United States at the very first run?

There was no way to know!

If you know anything about how the Board of Elections works (or doesn’t work — ba da BING!), Carroll had reason for the concern. When someone files a challenge at the Board of Elections, it takes about 15 minutes for it to register on its computers. Candidates can check the computer, but the Elections employees began closing for the night because it was so close to the midnight deadline, preventing candidates from both learning if they were being challenged at the last minute and from firing off counter challenges.

“I saw them filing 100 sheets of paper, but they pushed me out of the way so I couldn’t see who they were challenging,” he said.

With his window of opportunity narrowing and no time to confirm if any of the challenges had his name on it, Carroll filed to challenge Perfetto, breaking his word.

“It’s typical that the Kings County Democratic Party would come in at the last minute and do something like this,” said Carroll. “[Submitting my challenges] was a calculated risk and a defensive move, but if it turns out that my opponent did not file, I promise that I won’t take this any further.”

But, as it turns out, Carroll has egg on his face.

When my colleague, Courier-Life journalistic mainstay Tom Tracy, contacted Perfetto at home after midnight — waking him up, mind you — Perfetto said that he had not challenged Carroll’s petitions.

“He had more than enough signatures to get on the ballot,” Perfetto said. “Why would I challenge him and try to find over 1,000 bad signatures? That’s lunacy.”

Hope Reichbach raised more money than Jo Anne Simon!

And Perfetto said he doubted that the Kings County Democratic Party would challenge Carroll on his behalf, though Perfetto’s loyalty to county chairman Vito Lopez has been an issue in the district leader race.

Perfetto said he wasn’t surprised by Carroll’s move. He also wasn’t worried, since he had way more signatures than the required 500 needed to get on the ballot.

“He could challenge all he wants, but he would have to find 1,500 bad signatures to knock me off the ballot,” said Perfetto. “That should be fun for him.”

Despite promises to the contrary, the Board of Elections didn’t provide us with the complete list of candidates in the state and federal races by our 1 am deadline, even though the list was readily available to them. But here’s a few tidbits we gleaned after tickling our vast Rolodex (and no, that is not a euphemism!):

• Attorney Igor Oberman’s much-talked-about challenge to powerful state Sen. Carl Kruger (D-Mill Basin) ain’t happening. There could be any number of reasons why someone wouldn’t want to take on Kruger, but our guess is that the Senate Finance Committee chairman’s campaign war chest gave Oberman 2,000,000 reasons why he should stay in his law office.

• Gravesend resident Mike DiSanto will run against state Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge) in the November general election. This could prove to be quite a race since DiSanto is a Democrat — and gay (and Golden has longstanding feuds animosity toward both!).

• Before the Kings County Democratic Party came in with its heap of unidentified petition challenges, only four had been filed against Brooklyn candidates — two against writer and former MTV reality show star Kevin Powell, who is challenging Rep. Ed Towns (D–Fort Greene), and two against Assemblywoman Rhoda Jacobs (D–Flatbush). Both are expected to get on the ballot anyway.

• It looks like many beatable lawmakers won’t even have a challenger. No one filed signatures to get on the ballot against Assemblyman Alan Maisel (D–Mill Basin) or Democratic District Leader incumbents Bernard Catcher (D–Mill Basin), Roberta Sherman (D–Mill Basin) and Councilman Lew Fidler (D–Marine Park).

• Yesterday also marked the last time to file how much money candidates have raised. After perusing the disclosure reports we learned that Democratic District Leader candidate Hope Reichbach out-raised longtime incumbent Jo Anne Simon (D–Boerum Hill)! According to campaign finance reports, Reichbach collected $24,230 and spent $7,432, leaving her with $16,797. Simon raised $11,245, but spent $2,824, leaving her with only $9,112.

• In the male district leader race in the same assembly district, longtime politico and flute player Chris Owens raised $10,912. His rival, Steve Williamson, collected $27,658. The other candidate, Jesse Strauss, did not have filings available at this time.

• Williamsburg district leader candidate Maritza Davila has is $120,941 in debt from her ill-fated City Council race last year. The dept includes an $18,000 fine to the Department of Sanitation for littering and improperly posting posters.

• Kruger’s campaign declined to reveal how much money it raised between January and July. By January, Kruger had more than $2.1 million to spend on his re-election campaign — more than any other Senator. He also happens to be in the middle of a “pay to play” scandal where he allegedly swapped political favors for lucrative campaign fundraisers.

• Lincoln Restler, who is challenging Warren Cohn, son of current Williamsburg District Leader Steve Cohn, reported raising a phenomenal $46,484 for the unpaid party position. That’s nearly three times the amount that Cohen raised, $14,878.

State Sen. Carl Kruger — won't have a challenger.
The Brooklyn Paper / Jeff Bachner

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