BY CHRISTINE CARRIE FIEN
Jose Cruz and John Lightfoot will have to wait a few more days to find out if they can stay on the ballot for State Assembly. Cruz and Lightfoot are looking to take on incumbent David Gantt in a Democratic primary election next month, but a Gantt supporter is challenging the validity of their campaign petitions in State Supreme Court.
In a court appearance this morning, Carlos Rodriguez, the attorney representing Gantt ally Ruth Brooks-Ward, said the petitions for both men are rife with violations, including forgery. There are also multiple examples of incomplete and illegible signatures, Rodriguez said.
The whole thing together is a damning package, he said, and the petitions for both men should be thrown out.
Defense attorney Van White said that some people were “harassed” into disavowing their signatures and that in one case, a woman had her mother’s power of attorney and signed on her mother’s behalf.
He also said that Rodriguez is trying to blow his case up into something much more substantial than it is. When it comes down to it, White said, all Rodriguez has is possibly four affidavits from people disavowing their signatures on either Cruz’s or Lightfoot’s petitions. Nullifying only four names would not come close to getting Cruz or Lightfoot off the ballot.
But fraud is a serious allegation; it’s a felony for a candidate to submit a petition with a known forgery, said Justice John Ark, who is presiding over the case.
The court proceedings were testy and animated, with Rodriguez and White frequently trading barbs and accusations. Rodriguez twice told White to “shut up.”
The petitions have been ruled valid by the Monroe County Board of Elections, but allegations of fraud are outside the board’s jurisdiction.
Ark suspended the hearing until 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, August 15, to give White time to review paperwork he said he received from Rodriguez only last night. Since the deadline to file an appeal in the case is today — Friday, August 10 — Ark’s ruling will be the final word.