A Brooklyn Supreme Court judge revived the candidacy of an East New York businessman named Misba Abdin for Rafael Espinal’s former seat on the New York City Council and called the controversial decision by the Board of Elections decision last week to reject the candidacy of him and three others “absurd.” The decision means that a Democratic Party official named Darma Diaz will no longer be running for the slot unopposed on June 23rd.
“Justice was served and the democratic process was restored for the constituents of the 37th district – and I look forward to becoming their representative in City Council,” Abdin tells Bushwick Daily.
The ruling comes days after Governor Cuomo issued an order canceling the special election for that race, which had effectively ended the campaigns of Diaz’s four rivals for the city council seat that Espinal vacated earlier this year. Tuesday’s ruling puts Abdin back on the primary ballot and bodes well for the campaigns of Sandy Nurse, Kimberly Council and Rick Echevarrí, who are each contesting the Board’s ruling separately.
In order to appear on a ballot for the primary in the city council race, state law dictates that candidates need to collect the signatures of 900 registered Democratic voters. Perversely, following a change-up in 2012, the New York City Charter dictates that the number should be no higher than 450. When the COVID-19 shutdown was starting last month, Cuomo had slashed the number to be “30 percent of the statutory threshold,” but the Board ruled that Cuomo’s order did not apply for the council race and held that the number of signatures the candidates needed remained at 450, a number no one running besides Diaz had.
But Judge Edgar Walker rejected that reading outright.
“The Board has taken the position that…the Governor cast all health and prejudice concerns aside and intended that candidates collect the same amount of signatures as were required prior to the pandemic. In the court’s view, this is an absurd interpretation,” Judge Walker writes.
In an interview with City & State this weekend, Diaz had told Jeff Coltin that she had challenged the signatures of her opponents because she didn’t think they stood much of a chance.
“When we saw the quality of their signatures, we were pressed to move forward,” she said, adding that, as a “multimillionaire” Abdin “had time and money on [his] side” to get more than enough signatures to withstand her challenges.
Andrey Bystrov, a political consultant who is working communications for Abdin’s campaign, tells Bushwick Daily that he can’t see how the attorneys for Diaz’s rivals “wouldn’t use this as precedent to adjudicate their own entry onto the ballot.”
Update: King County Politics is now reporting that Judge Walker, in a decision the next day, rejected the cases of Sandy Nurse and Rick Echevarrí to appear on the ballot again “on technical issues.”
Kimberly Council, a reverend at a Crown Heights church who ran for the seat against Rafael Espinal for the seat in 2013, was also placed back on the primary ballot to run against Darma Diaz, per a later order.
Top photos courtesy of campaign website.
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