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Board of Elections OKs Mata for Democratic line

Giovanni Mata submitted 1,772 signatures to the Suffolk

Giovanni Mata submitted 1,772 signatures to the Suffolk Board of Elections. He needs 500 valid signatures to get on the ballot. Photo Credit: Richard T. Slattery

The Suffolk Board of Elections certified Friday that insurgent county legislative candidate Giovanni Mata has enough petition signatures to qualify for the Democratic line, setting up a possible November faceoff with incumbent Legis. Monica Martinez (D-Brentwood).

But county and Islip Democrats vowed to press a court challenge against Mata and a slate of opposition town candidates, claiming that many of their ballot signatures are fraudulent.

Mata, of Central Islip, who is seeking to unseat Martinez, submitted 1,772 signatures to the Board of Elections. The board invalidated 410 signatures, leaving him with 1,362 valid signatures, said Democratic Board of Elections Commissioner Anita Katz.

Mata needs 500 valid signatures to get on the ballot.

Mata said party Democrats should end the legal challenge to his petitions. "They need to stop and let the people's voice be heard," he said.

Martinez, who did not respond to a request for comment Friday, withdrew Wednesday from a Democratic primary with Mata after he and other insurgents successfully challenged her petitions, asserting they were "replete with fraudulent dates and/or forged signatures."

Martinez filed 1,603 signatures with the Board of Elections but conceded that she did not have enough legitimate signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Martinez, who won the 9th District seat in 2013, will remain as a candidate on the Working Families and Independence party lines. There is no Republican candidate.

Suffolk Democratic chairman Richard Schaffer said the party will still contest the validity of Mata's signatures. "We believe he should not be on the ballot," Schaffer said.

Also Friday, state Supreme Court Justice John Bivona recused himself from the court case after conceding that his party affiliation as a Democrat created "concerns about the perception of impropriety."

Neil Tiger, an attorney for Mata and a slate of insurgent Islip Democrats, had asked Bivona to recuse himself, noting that Schaffer had first selected him to run for the bench in 2001.

Bivona's law clerk, Robert Meguin, also is active in Democratic politics in the Town of Babylon, where Schaffer serves as town supervisor, Tiger said.

Bivona agreed that "in the interest of preserving the integrity" of the case, he would recuse himself.

Maureen Liccione, an attorney for Islip Democrats, called the recusal "prejudicial" to her case and noted that she may be unable to secure all of her scheduled witnesses, including those who had testified before Bivona.

The case was later assigned to state Supreme Court Justice Joseph Santorelli.

Schaffer called the recusal "frustrating but it's important that the case can be heard."

The insurgent slate of Islip Town Democrats includes former Suffolk Legis. Rick Montano, who is running for supervisor. Montano lost his seat to Martinez in 2013 after a bitter primary.

Also vying to get on the ballot are Jorge Guadron, a candidate for town clerk; Nitza Franco, running for receiver of taxes; and Donovan Currey and Miriam Ventura, both running for seats on the town council.


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