2009-08-05 / Front Page

4 Of 5 Candidates For 26th District Debate Campaign

4 Of 5 Candidates For 26th District Debate Campaign


By Thomas Cogan
The Democratic primary race for the 26th District City Council seat had until lately been marked by civility among its five candidates, as reflected in the debates they held this spring in Sunnyside and Dutch Kills. That civility was disrupted when one of them, Deirdre Feerick, challenged the petitions submitted by two others, Came Smalls and David Rosasco. Not challenged were the remaining candidates, Jimmy Van Bramer and Brent O’Leary; but they took up the cause of Smalls and Rosasco. The four of them assembled Monday for an outdoor press conference on a terrace of the Ravenswood Houses in Long Island City.

Van Bramer acknowledged his unchallenged status but deplored what he saw as Feerick’s attempt to advance her chances in the September 15 primary vote by eliminating the chances of two competitors. Smalls’ campaign manager, George Weissberger, said the challenge to Smalls was a challenge to diversity, since Smalls is African-American and disabled also, being afflicted with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye condition. Smalls himself called Feerick “a hypocrite” for expressing democratic sentiments while trying to crush two rival candidacies.

 Rosasco thanked Van Bramer and O’Leary for standing by him, then reasserted his legitimacy by saying he had the names of more than 900 registered Democrats on his petitions. He was confident they would vote for him and added that the matter should be settled “in the ballot box, not in the courts”. O’Leary agreed. Alluding to Feerick’s alleged legal assistance in the petition challenge, he said that victory should depend on the ballot box “and not the trickiest lawyer”. Van Bramer elaborated that “elections are about choice”, which would be curtailed for the voters if Smalls and Rosasco lost their places on the ballot. He foresaw resentment, and possible non-participation, on the part of those who signed their petitions if they should abruptly discover that their names have not been recognized.

Rosasco said he was informed by the Board of Elections that there were questions about the legitimacy of the signatures on his petitions, “including my own”. Weissberger said that Smalls had collected more than 1,700 signatures, mainly among residents of Ravenswood and Queensbridge Houses, and was told by the board that 1,400 of them were illegitimate. He noted that most of the signatories were young but all, he insisted, were properly registered. He decried the way new voters were being discouraged. “Local government is where you can make changes,” he said, but at this time attempts to make them were being denied by forces of the status quo. He characterized Feerick as a candidate of old and established party figures. Referring to the petition challenges, he wondered aloud, “How much of this is Deirdre’s doing and how much the machine’s?”

Smalls called himself “the voice of people who didn’t even know they had a voice”. He accused Feerick of making probing inquiries of him and of his friends and neighbors, while at the same time he never questioned the legitimacy of her petitions. One of his friends and associates, Derrick Riley, said that in talking directly to Feerick he asked where she stood on some matters but could only hear her asking in reply where Smalls stood.

Deirdre Feerick was unavailable for comment in the matter, although she was called several times.

The challenges to Smalls and Rosasco are likely to be resolved in court some time this month. While lamenting that they had to be raised in the first place, Van Bramer hoped they would be turned back. Then he summarized that he hoped all his opponents were on the ballot, hoped the voters had a choice—“and I hope I win”.

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