A State Supreme Court justice ruled Tuesday that Giovanni Mata fell three valid signatures short of the 500 he needed to qualify for the Democratic primary ballot against 12-year veteran Assemb. Phillip Ramos (D-Brentwood).

Justice John Leo's ruling upheld an earlier decision by the Suffolk County Board of Elections, which found that Mata's qualified signatures fell short. Mata, who said he had originally filed 590 signatures, had gone to court to be put back on the ballot.

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It was the second time Mata, 34, onetime chairman of former County Executive Steve Levy's Hispanic advisory committee, had tried to run a primary against Ramos. Mata was thrown off the ballot four years ago for not having enough qualified signatures.

He had earlier survived a challenge to his nominating petitions for the Independence Party ballot line.