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Burke’s case dismissed; Woolf likely will move straight to general election in NY21


WATERTOWN — It appears that Democrat Aaron G. Woolf has secured his place on the November ballot in the 21st Congressional District race after his challenger for the party’s nomination lost another round in court.

State Supreme Court Justice Kimberly A. O’Connor on Thursday denied Stephen W. Burke’s request to overturn the state Board of Elections decision rejecting Mr. Burke’s petitions for lack of valid signatures.

Mr. Burke said he was told the case had to be dismissed because he and his lawyer failed to find the man who objected to his petitions — St. Lawrence County Democrat Jason R. Clark — and serve him with a court order.

Mr. Clark told the Times, referring to Mr. Burke: “The bottom line is that New York state has certain rules. He understood what those rules were and he thought he was above them. The number of signatures he had wasn’t even close.”

Mr. Clark said that since Mr. Burke is a former county Democratic chairman and has previously run for office, he is well aware of the requirements to appear on the ballot.

As for his not being served with court papers, Mr. Clark said: “They didn’t look very hard. I’m fairly easy to find. Everybody knows I’m at the county Legislature every Monday night.”

Mr. Burke could appeal the justice’s decision but said he probably will not pursue that course of action.

“We’re talking about it now, but probably not,” Mr. Burke said.

Mr. Burke entered the race in March after Democratic leaders in the district announced Mr. Woolf as their choice. He criticized the selection of Mr. Woolf and said the candidate was chosen solely for his financial resources. Mr. Burke also said he felt the objections to his ballot petitions were an attempt by party leaders to pave a clear path to the general election for Mr. Woolf.

Mr. Burke collected 1,291 signatures on his ballot petitions and had 175 removed, leaving him with 1,116 — 134 shy of the minimum 1,250 needed to appear on the June 24 primary ballot. Mr. Woolf turned in 374 pages of ballot petitions, according to the state Board of Elections website.

Mr. Woolf presented the situation as a reflection of his campaign’s strength.

“I am excited by the momentum of the campaign,” Mr. Woolf stated in an email. “Having received nearly three times the number of signatures to qualify for the Democratic ballot, and having obtained more than twice the number of signatures to make the Working Families Party ballot, it is clear that the residents of the 21st Congressional District are excited about this campaign.”

Republican candidates Matthew A. Doheny and Elise M. Stefanik will face each other in the primary election for their party’s nomination.

Times staff writer Martha Ellen contributed to this report.

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