Sandy Nurse who is vying to replace former Council Member Rafael Espinal, in the 37th Council District, has failed to make the ballot for the June 23, Democratic Primary election.
Last week began with petition challenges proceeding, uninterrupted, even after several elected officials who endorsed Nurse along with progressive groups mounted a failed effort to pressure Governor Cuomo into intervening on her behalf by suspending all petition challenges.
During the Board of Election (BOE) hearings held last week, Nurse twice failed to prove that she met the requirements to make it onto the ballot. First, the BOE commissioners determined that Nurse, a Working Families Party (WFP) endorsed candidate, failed to properly complete the paperwork required for the WFP ballot line. Her team did not file the required cover sheet (a fatal defect) along with her WFP petition filing. A basic, but nonetheless very important, step since the cover sheet is where candidates indicate the quantity of signatures they are filing and how the BOE should contact them to correct any filing errors. Though Nurse had legal representation, she did not contest being taken off the WFP ballot.
Interestingly, Nurse, something of the progressive darling candidate had the least amount of ‘clean’ signatures, according to the BOE review of petitions, although only Democratic District Leader Darma Diaz met the BOE required threshold of 450 signatures.
Of the insurgent candidates, the BOE listed Rick Echevarria with 285 with the most followed by Kimberly Council with 174, Misba Abdin with 169 and Nurse with 147.
Second, but more importantly, Nurse was removed from the Democratic Party ballot line for failing to obtain the minimum number of signatures required to qualify for the ballot. Of the four candidates facing petition challenges to appear on the Democratic Party ballot line, Nurse submitted the lowest number of valid signatures, based on BOE review.
After Governor Cuomo issued an Executive Order, the State Board of Elections published a required threshold of 270 valid signatures on their website. A valid signature is one signed by a registered Democrat registered to vote in the council district. During the hearing, Nurse’s attorney argued that the threshold should have been 135. The Board determined the proper threshold to be 450 qualified signatures, based on the standards set by the New York City Charter, all of the candidates were working under the assumption that the required was 270. The Board’s ruling was that the Governor’s Executive Order did not apply to the City Council race.
On Friday, Nurse’s candidacy was dealt another lethal blow. Cuomo canceled the Special Election for the seat. In an apparent early effort to help salvage Nurse’s candidacy from the inevitable BOE ruling against her, sources say Mayor Bill de Blasio sent a letter to the governor appealing for the authority to cancel the primary and to hold only the special election.
Nurse, who some see as a transplant into the council district, now has to hope that a Supreme Court judge will place her back on the ballot, after fumbling her way through the petitioning process. But if a judge does so, Nurse will be facing formidable opposition, not just from Diaz, but from Council and Echevarria who have also filed suits in Supreme Court to be placed back on the ballot for the Democratic primary.
For now, Diaz is the lone candidate on the ballot in the Democratic primary pending legal rulings. Existing community connections will likely now play an outsized role in this race. Echevarria, Council, Abdin, and Diaz are all longterm district residents—who appear to have outworked Nurse—and done a better job connecting with voters in the district during the COVID-19 crisis.