Less than three weeks before Queens residents from Woodhaven to the Rockaways cast their ballots for State Senator Joe Addabbo, Jr.’s City Council replacement, the field of contenders has apparently been whittled down to four.
Conspicuously absent on polling lists throughout the 32nd Council District during the February 24 special election could be Community Board 6 District Manager Frank Gulluscio. The self-proclaimed “known entity” with the most experience among the candidates, Gulluscio was widely considered the favorite to win the council spot. But his petitions for inclusion on the ballot – each candidate had to file 1,100 signatures by January 15 – were invalidated because they contained a star, an overt Democratic Party symbol according to a bipartisan Board of Elections (BOE) committee, sources at a February 3 BOE hearing said. In the special election, all candidates were to run as Independents.
“Our campaign continues to move forward towards victory on February 24,” Gulluscio said in a statement, pledging to appeal the BOE ruling in court on February 9 and condemning the “cheap tricks” used by some of his opponents.
Also missing from voting registries will likely be Sam Di Bernardo, a former teacher and real estate executive, who, at 74, and without big-party backing, called himself “the underdog.” Di Bernardo, too, was ruled out “on a technicality,” he said, after the BOE and a conflict of interest board voted that they could not determine from his petitions what district he was running in. He plans to challenge the ruling.
Retired New York Police Department lieutenant Glenn DiResto was also removed from the February 24 ballot after the name he created for his party – in special elections candidates must create their own party – was found to be too similar to the Working Families Party.
“They’re looking to take away the Democratic process,” DiResto said, vowing to take the fight to court. “They’re looking to stop people from having a choice.”
Candidates with objections to the results of the BOE hearing can appeal in court on February 9.
Meanwhile, those on the ballot are moving ahead full-throttle for the next three weeks.
“I’m the fourth generation in my family to live here,” said Geraldine Chapey. “I may be new to the campaign, but not new to the area.”
Even though she launched her campaign relatively late amid a comparatively short Special Election campaign season, Chapey said 32nd CD constituents have been very receptive.
A tenured professor at the City University of New York, Chapey said education is a big issue, but the 67-year-old – “the same age as Mayor Bloomberg” – said as City Councilmember she would also focus her efforts on securing a Cross Bay toll rebate and creating jobs in the district.
“It’s been great,” she said of the campaign thus far. “I love meeting people. I love going out, that’s why I’m enjoying it.”
The President of Ricatto Industries, a consortium of seven business entities, Michael Ricatto considers himself a singular candidate.
“I’m the only guy who has experience in turning things around,” he said, adding that most of the other 32nd CD candidates have worked in the public sector their entire careers.
Even though he found himself at the center of a tragedy after one of his campaign vehicles struck and killed a young boy, Ricatto said the accident has not had much of an impact on his efforts.
“People understand it was a terrible tragedy and they’re still entitled to representation,” said the conservative candidate, who believes the economy to be the core issue of his candidacy.
“In a democracy the best man will win and I think the constituency here are really intelligent,” he said. “They follow what’s going on, and I think they will be out there voting for me.”
“I’m not one who has been challenged, thank God,” Lew Simon exclaimed, noting that he was confident in the legitimacy of the signatures he had gathered.
The Rockaway Democratic district leader emphasized that he and his opponents have had a very short amount of time to energize their bases and he said he is not letting up even after he is elected.
“There’s a lot of work to do,” Simon said, pointing to a packed schedule of campaign events over the next few weeks but also underscoring the importance of key community issues like transportation, education and the Cross Bay Bridge toll. “I expect on the 25th to hit the ground running,” he said.
In announcing his candidacy, Eric Ulrich, at 24 the youngest 32nd CD contender, labeled his effort a “campaign for the future.” Through door-to-door outreach, phone banking, Internet initiatives and a 48-foot tall billboard at the corner of Liberty Avenue and Cross Bay Boulevard, the Ozone Park native said he is “proud of the fact we’ve been able to reach every community in the district.”
While the Republican district leader said his campaign is “right on track,” he admitted he is “cautiously confident” and is taking nothing for granted during the remaining weeks of the campaign.
“I think in an election like this, every single vote will count,” Ulrich said.