The Nassau County Board of Elections has ruled that former Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen gathered enough valid petition signatures to qualify for a spot on the ballot in the June 28 Democratic primary in the 4th Congressional District in Nassau.
The elections board on Monday signed off on a decision affirming Gillen's candidacy, after two attorneys who back Malverne Mayor Keith Corbett in the primary had sought a review of Gillen's signatures.
A candidate needs to collect 1,250 signatures of party-enrolled voters to qualify for the congressional ballot.
Gillen filed 2,491 signatures, of which 952 were invalid, the board said.
That left Gillen with 1,539 valid signatures.
Gillen, Corbett, and Nassau County Legislators Siela Bynoe (D-Westbury) and Carrié Solages (D-Lawrence), also are seeking the Democratic Party's nomination to replace retiring Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City).
Democratic attorneys Jason Abelove and Howard Colton filed challenges to Gillen's signatures earlier this month.
"At the end of the day all these political games will accomplish is to show that one candidate is intent on disenfranchising voters and threatening the democratic process but it won’t succeed," a Gillen campaign spokesman said.
Abelove, who serves on the board of Nassau University Medical Center and ran an unsuccessful race for Hempstead Supervisor last year, and Colton, the Freeport Village attorney, both have contributed to Corbett's House race, according to their filings with the Federal Election Commission.
Anthony D'Esposito, a Republican Hempstead Town Council member from Island Park, and GOP businessman William Staniford are seeking the Republican nomination in the 4th District.
Abelove told Newsday he filed objections with the elections board as due diligence to ensure Gillen had enough valid signatures.
"If these issues turned out to be more serious, and her petitions invalidated, it's better we know now than wait for D'Esposito to raise that in the general election," Abelove told Newsday.
Gillen filed a lawsuit last Wednesday to preserve her place on the ballot, should her signatures be deemed invalidated.
She named Abelove, Colton and the county elections board and its two commissioners as defendants.
Colton deferred comment to his attorney, Steve Schlesinger, the former chairman of the Nassau County Democratic Party's law committee.
Schlesinger told Newsday he was considering whether to proceed with a court challenge to Gillen's petitions.
"We took a look at the petitions, and we saw at a quick review there were a significant number of easily identifiable bad signatures, which wasn’t true for the other candidates," Schlesinger said.
"We are continuing to analyze the petitions, and we believe there is a significant chance that a sufficient number of the remaining signatures will be invalid,” he said.
Corbett serves as the party's law chairman and is of counsel to the state Democratic Party.
Corbett denied any role in the objections to Gillen's signatures.
Jay Jacobs, state and Nassau chairman, also said he had no role in the objections.
“I certainly don't advise anyone to challenge petitions, unless you're absolutely certain that they're invalid," Jacobs told Newsday. "It's certainly not something I was asked about or recommended."
Jacobs said he lamented the Democratic infighting.
"I just feel like we ought to get to the issues, and we have to get to the issues that are important to the public," Jacobs said. "That's where the focus should be."