Dem ballot battle in CD 32 continues 1

Mike Scala, left, Raimondo Graziano and Kenichi Wilson are all Democratic candidates running for City Council in District 32 who have been locked in a legal fight over the primary ballot.

The battle to get on the Democratic primary ballot continues in Council District 32.

After an apparent supporter of Mike Scala made objections against the petitions of Community Board 9 Chairman Kenichi Wilson and community organizer Raimondo Graziano aimed at kicking them off the primary ballot, the Board of Elections found that Wilson had enough valid signatures to make it on but Graziano did not.

Graziano told the Chronicle last Thursday that he will put his support behind Wilson’s campaign as he continues to fight to get on the ballot. However, as of this week, it’s unclear whether Wilson will be able to make it through the legal hurdles that Scala’s campaign has in store for him.

Before any of the objections even went before the Board of Elections, a Scala supporter lodged a peremptory lawsuit in state Supreme Court against Wilson and the Board of Elections on behalf of the campaign, raising a whole host of potential issues with Wilson’s petitions ranging from fraud to the same handwriting and misguiding signatures, meaning an instance where his campaign did not tell signatories the importance of the document they were signing.

“It’s a kitchen sink lawsuit — everything’s in there except for the kitchen sink. They filed that suit, so I guess they were prepared for me to win” at the BOE level, Wilson said last Thursday.

The outcome of the court battle for Wilson was not as favorable as his appearance in front of the board.

During the BOE hearing, the board only restored Wilson’s campaign to 275 signatures, stopping the count shortly after he passed the threshold to get on the ballot.

But in the Supreme Court case on Tuesday, the Scala campaign was able to invalidate another 15 signatures of Wilson’s, meaning that he was 10 below the threshold required to appear on the primary ballot.

As it now stands, Wilson is off the primary ballot, and with Graziano gone as well, that leaves the moderate lane in the race open to Scala.

But Wilson can choose to appeal the court’s decision and attempt to redeem more of his signatures in Appellate Court. He told the Chronicle after his court appearance Tuesday that he was weighing his options. No matter what happens, the process has drained his campaign funds, he said, and done significant damage to his chances in the primary.

Wilson raised about $95,000 for his campaign — of that, about $80,000 was in public matching funds and nearly $15,000 in private donations.

He said that up to appearing before the BOE, combined with the expenses of retaining an election lawyer, his campaign had spent around $35,000, but the cost of defending himself in Supreme Court added another $10,000 in expenses.

The gamble for his campaign will revolve around the fact that if he doesn’t make the primary ballot, the city will withdraw the matching funds, so he would be personally liable for anything over the $14,677 that he raised in private donations.

According to his calculations, he’s already tens of thousand of dollars over that threshold. If he accepts defeat now, the Scala campaign will have put him personally in debt.

“I’ve been out of work for over a year. My expenses, with two young daughters and a mortgage has basically taken away all my life savings. So at this point I would not be able to afford to pay what I owe. So let’s put it that way,” Wilson told the Chronicle.

He will now face the choice of continuing to rack up legal expenses with the prospect of winning enough signatures to make it on the primary ballot and retain his public funds, or to cut his losses and minimize the amount he could be in debt after the campaign.

He told the Chronicle that he had not made up his mind about what to do, but ended the conversation saying, “I have a family to consider.”

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