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James Coll’s petitions challenged in Nassau Legislature race

The nominating petitions of James Coll, a Republican

The nominating petitions of James Coll, a Republican primary candidate for Nassau County Legislature, are being challenged in court. Credit: James Escher

Republican primaries for local offices in Nassau County have been exceedingly rare in recent years — and in the case of a potential county legislative challenge this fall, the party is trying to keep it that way.

Supporters of John R. Ferretti Jr., the Nassau GOP’s choice to represent the county legislature’s 15th district, want to disqualify James Coll, an NYPD detective seeking to run against Ferretti in the Sept. 12 primary.

John Fochtman and Thomas DeSanno, both Levittown Republicans, have filed a lawsuit in State Supreme Court in Mineola objecting to the nominating petitions that Coll submitted last month to get on the primary ballot.

Coll, of Seaford, filed 725 signatures with the county Board of Elections. He needs 500 valid signatures, and the board ruled last month that his petitions were sufficient.

Fochtman’s and DeSanno’s lawsuit alleges numerous false registrations and addresses used by petition witnesses.

They also cite a technical error on Coll’s cover sheet that they say should disqualify the entire petition. For the office being sought, Coll wrote “15th District Nassau County Legislature” instead of “Legislator.”

“The entire petition must be stricken for being permeated with fraud,” the lawsuit said.

Petition challenges are common in Long Island races, but Coll, a political newcomer, said he didn’t understand why anyone would want to limit residents’ options to represent them.

“I can’t really figure out the injury that these people would have with having me on the ballot,” Coll said. “It’s absolutely a coordinated effort to reduce the number of choices that Republican voters have in the election.”

Coll, 44, a member of the NYPD’s Emergency Service Unit who also teaches American and Constitutional history at Hofstra University, said the legislature needs the voice of a first responder.

If he qualifies for the ballot, he will face Ferretti, 34, an attorney and chief deputy Nassau County clerk. Ferretti is Nassau Republican chairman Joseph Mondello’s great-nephew.

“This is not the first time I have heard from residents that Mr. Coll has misrepresented himself,” Ferretti said in a statement, referring to the lawsuit. “These allegations of fraud by Mr. Coll’s campaign are certainly troubling, and, if true, is the very corruption I will end if elected to the County Legislature.”

The 15th Legislative District was vacated earlier this year by Legis. Dennis Dunne (R-Levittown), who was appointed to the Hempstead Town Board.

As is typically the case, no other Republican nominees for county offices are facing potential primaries.

Democrats will have primaries for county executive, county clerk, county comptroller and in at least one legislative district. The petitions of another potential Democratic primary challenger for a legislative district are subject to a lawsuit.

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