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Saturday, October 25, 2014
Primary '14

Cabrera survives challenge to petitions

By Shant Shahrigian
Posted
Marisol Díaz/The Riverdale Press
Councilman Fernando Cabrera speaks at a street renaming for José Francisco Peña Gómez at the intersection of West Burnside and University avenues on Saturday.

Bronx Councilman Fernando Cabrera has survived his opponent’s attempt to knock him out of the upcoming Democratic primary race for the 33rd state Senate district seat.

On Aug. 15, Bronx Supreme Court Justice John W. Carter rejected a claim from the incumbent, state Sen. Gustavo Rivera, saying a worker for Mr. Cabrera’s campaign had committed widespread fraud on petitions to get Mr. Cabrera on the ballot.

After the State Board of Elections (SBOE) found dozens of problems with signatures collected by the worker, Heather McDonald, that left 275 names from Ms. McDonald among the 1,252 total signatures for Mr. Cabrera that the SBOE deemed valid, according to court documents.

Mr. Rivera’s campaign went on to argue that additional irregularities should invalidate all the signatures Ms. McDonald had gathered — just pushing the total number of signatures for Mr. Cabrera below the 1,000 needed to get on the ballot.

As examples of mistakes the SBOE missed, Mr. Rivera’s campaign pointed out signatures of three dead people and of five individuals who testified they had not, in fact, provided their names for Mr. Cabrera.

While a court-appointed referee agreed that those eight signatures were invalid, the official deemed that was insufficient basis for tossing out all of Ms. McDonald’s work. Mr. Carter upheld that finding in his final decision last Friday. 

“It just confirmed what we always knew,” Mr. Cabrera said of the ruling. “[Mr. Rivera is] trying to disenfranchise the voters from being able to elect whoever they want.”

In a brief interview during a street renaming at University Heights on Saturday, Mr. Cabrera also accused Mr. Rivera of having invalid signatures on his own petitions.

“Go check his petitions,” Mr. Cabrera said. “They were riddled with enough to knock him out. But I didn’t want to win the victory that way.”

Mr. Rivera’s office declined to comment on the allegations or provide the senator for an interview.

But in a statement, Mr. Rivera said the only reason the judge ruled in Mr. Cabrera’s favor was that Ms. McDonald had dodged a subpoena ordering her to appear in court.

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