This weekend, candidate for District 7’s City Council seat Zead Ramadan subpoenaed petition witnesses for Mark Levine and other candidates, who were working with the unaffiliated Broadway Democrats, the local Democratic Club. The subpoenas claim that many of Levine’s 8,000 signatures were fake, even though he only needed 450 to get on the ballot. Since the matter is currently the courts, the Ramadan campaign has not commented publicly about its decision to go after Levine’s ballot eligibility. But that hasn’t stopped critics from condemning the move as a nasty political maneuver.
The Upper Manhattan district includes parts of Harlem and Washington Heights. Might this just be a case of a campaign verifying a petition in proper stewardship of the democratic process?
The Broadway Democrats don’t see it that way. Curtis Arluck and Paula Diamond-Roman, leaders of the club, immediately circulated an e-mail lacerating Ramadan with accusations of dirty politics.
Though they do not claim that only women of color received subpoenas, they acted upon learning that Black and Latina women, many of whom live in public housing, received subpoenas for having worked as petition witnesses under them.
The e-mail reads in part:
Officially, it is part of a proceeding to invalidate Mark Levine’s petitions and throw him off the ballot. But Mark filed over 8,000 signatures, and you only need 450 to qualify. This is clearly an attempt by a rich man to make Mark spend his resources on frivolous legal challenges. But much, much worse, it’s an effort to harass and intimidate Mark’s petition carriers, many of whom are women, most of whom are minorities, and all of whom have far less money than the nasty, desperate candidate who is so outrageously hauling them into court.
There is no way to wholly invalidate Levine’s petition since nothing can prove the campaign knowingly collected forgeries. That can only mean one thing, says Arluck: The subpoenas are meant to tie up Levine’s lesser resources in lengthy–and expensive–court proceedings.
Arluck further notes suggests that the Supreme Court’s recent gutting of the Voting Rights Act ought to have made Ramadan think twice about moving against minority voters in his district, because of the “chilling” effect it might have.
“These were actions done with depraved indifference to the effect it was going to have on the people who received the subpoenas, in a proceeding that is completely unprecedented,” Arluck tells Runnin’ Scared. “These court proceedings are reminiscent of southern states in the 1960s.”
The letter demands that Ramadan drop out of the race and the district’s representative in Congress, Charlie Rangel, step in and condemn the suit.
Ramadan’s campaign countered the e-mail by cataloging all of Ramadan’s racial justice bona fides and his own status as a minority in a district of minorities. “To imply or suggest that I or my campaign would engage in the suppression or deprivation of the rights of any person, regardless of race, color, religion or gender, strikes at the very core of who I am,” says Ramadan.
The Mark Levine camp has yet to respond to requests for comment.