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NY21 Democratic candidate Burke to make case for primary before state Supreme Court

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CANTON - Stephen W. Burke, one of the Democratic candidates running for New York’s 21st Congressional District, is entering the second round of a fight to stay on the ballot after the state Board of Elections struck more than 170 signatures from his petitions Tuesday.

Mr. Burke is facing a primary against Aaron G. Woolf, a documentary filmmaker from Elizabethtown. Mr. Burke entered the race in March after citing concerns over Mr. Woolf’s residency and the process by which he was chosen by the county chairpersons of the 12 Democratic County Committee’s in the district.

Mr. Burke contended that party leaders chose Mr. Woolf, who registered to vote in Essex County on Feb. 7 and is co-owner of an organic grocery store in Brooklyn, because they felt he could bring or attract a substantial amount of money to his campaign.

“I’m an old political warhorse,” Mr. Burke said. “Money can’t be the whole thing. The party organization may be weak in raising money, but that’s no reason to pick a candidate.”

Lawyers representing Jason R. Clark, a St. Lawrence County Democrat and county legislator, succeeded in striking between 170 and 180 signatures from Mr. Burke’s petitions. Mr. Burke said he could not remember the exact number.

Mr. Burke initially reported 1,311 signatures on his ballot petitions but, after recounting, revised that number to 1,291.

“One page was counted twice,” he said.

Lawyers for Mr. Clark originally challenged 380 signatures before all parties settled on the lower number, Mr. Burke said.

“It didn’t go that good because we really were up against a stacked deck,” Mr. Burke said.

Mr. Burke, who has a hearing with the state Supreme Court in Albany County at 10 a.m. Wednesday, has said that the challenges to his ballot petitions are an attempt by Democratic Party leaders in the district to remove him from the race to pave a clear path to the general election for their chosen candidate.

The challenges were based on different types of ink used in signatures and irregularities in the numbers written on the petitions, according to Mr. Burke.

“Take an 8 and go over it twice, what’s that look like?” Mr. Burke said. “They call it an alteration but it’s not an alteration.”

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