Call it the battle of the ballot.
Two weeks after votes were cast in the special election to replace disgraced state Sen. Carl Kruger, Republican upstart David Storobin is clinging to a one-vote lead over Councilman Lew Fidler, with both sides contesting a thorough tally of several hundred absentee ballots — meaning that the bizarre contest for a political posting that will disappear in eight months is likely headed for another recount.
Storobin’s election-night lead of 120 votes jumped to 143 the next day after workers from the Board of Elections completed a paper ballot recount, but the GOP attorney’s margin of victory shrank to just a single vote after 700-plus absentee ballots and affidavits were tallied.
But lawyers for Storobin and Fidler claimed more than 300 of the votes were phony, and asked court-appointed referees to review the votes and toss out the illegitimate ones.
Fidler spokesman Kalman Yeger accused Storobin’s camp of pressuring residents into submitting absentee ballots and then asking them to vote a second time at the polls, which is illegal.
“We’re very confident that as Mr. Storobin’s fraud is identified and addressed by the court that Lew Fidler will be elected because he has more legitimate votes,” Yeger said.
But Storobin spokesman David Simpson quickly fired back, claiming that Fidler purposefully challenged absentee ballots cast by people with Russian-sounding names in an attempt to disqualify votes that were presumably cast by supporters of his Soviet-born opponent — and denied any wrongdoing.
“We believe they’re valid votes,” Simpson said.
The battle for who will represent a wide swath of southern Brooklyn real estate that stretches from Brighton Beach to Bergen Beach moved out of the Board of Elections offices and into the streets — albeit briefly — when a group of Storobin supporters picketed outside of Fidler’s council office, claiming that Fidler tried to disqualify their votes to gain the upper hand in the race.
But the outcome of this election is now in the court-appointed referees, who are expected to render a decision on Wednesday.
If neither candidate is leading by more than 110 votes after the absentee ballots are reviewed, the city said it will conduct a second recount.
Politicos said another recount would be the most likely outcome — and marveled at the unusually close results.
“This is the closest race that I’ve seen in 25 years,” said Sheepshead Bay Democratic District Leader Michael Geller. “This is going to drag on for a while.”
Councilman Mike Nelson (D–Sheepshead Bay) agreed.
“This is a major surprise,” he said. “It’s the best example that every vote counts.”