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Long IslandColumnistsRick Brand

Judge rejects GOP fraud claims for Suozzi ballot petitions

State Supreme Court Justice James McCormack has dismissed Republican claims that Democratic congressional candidate Tom Suozzi’s “Fix Washington” ballot petitions were permeated with fraud.

The ruling, which came late Tuesday, is a major setback for backers of State Sen, Jack Martins (R-Old Wstbury), who persists in challenging irregularities on individual signatures, despite an earlier state board of elections ruling that Suozzi had more than the 3,500 eligible signatures needed to qualify for the ballot.

Ruling from the bench, McCormack said there may have been instances of fraud, but “the evidence does not come anywhere near the requirement the court, the law requires” to disqualify all petitions. While a review will continue, he added he does not find any irregularity that “has somehow blossomed into permeation of fraud in this particular instance.”

Keith M. Corbett, Nassau Democratic law chairman, who represented Suozzi, said the ruling means GOP claims of widespread fraud “were completely unfounded and all fraud claims were dismissed by the court.”

E, O’Brien Murray, Martins’ spokesman, said the issue is not settled and the judge left open the possibility to revisit the issue should further review find more problems. “The bottom line is that Tom Suozzi is not to be trusted,” he said.

Martins’ backers claimed at least four Suozzi campaign workers improperly included signatures of 40 voters, who denied signing the petition, and even filed bogus signatures of two dead voters. McCormack’s ruling came hours after one former Suozzi campaign worker took the Fifth Amendment rather than testify about whether he witnessed signatures that he attested to on nominating petitions.

Suozzi aides have said the campaign immediately fired the worker involved with the signatures of dead voters and concedes there may have been isolated cases where over-enthusiastic supporters acted improperly. Suozzi originally filed 5,017 signatures, and the state board of elections found 3,730 signatures valid.

Kim Devlin, Suozzi’s senior advisor, assailed Martins’ “attempts to litigate his way into Congress . . . He needs to man-up and stop whining to judges and lawyers, and instead get out there and debate the real issues so that voters” can decide “who will best represent them in Congress.”

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