After formally tossing his hat into the ring for Assemblywoman Rhoda Jacobs’ seat representing the 42nd District last month, Mark Lieberman has been kicked off the ballot after his petition signatures were challenged.
Lieberman, a journalist and civic activist from Midwood Park, charged yesterday that candidate Rodneyse Bichotte, who is often cited as the race’s front-runner and this week landed Mayor Bill de Blasio’s endorsement, challenged his signatures in order to push him out of the tightly packed race because, “I was the only one who could stand up to her in terms of issues.”
“Rodneyse challenged my petitions aggressively,” Lieberman said in an interview with us yesterday evening. “I got into the race late, and by the time we were able to verify all of our signatures, there was not time to challenge her.”
Bichotte’s campaign confirmed they challenged the signatures of both Lieberman and fellow 42nd AD candidate Michelle Adolphe. Adolphe remains on the ballot.
“We have always welcomed greater participation in the race for the 42ndAssembly District by eligible candidates,” a campaign spokesman said today. “Any ruling that removes a candidate from the ballot based on the legitimacy of signatures is an issue to take up with the [state] Board of Elections.”
Lieberman submitted 2,075 signatures of support for his bid for the district that represents such neighborhoods as Ditmas Park, Midwood, and Flatbush. Assembly candidates are required to submit at least 500 signatures from eligible voters in the district to the state Board of Elections in order to be listed on the ballot for the Sept. 9 Democratic primary.
It was also pointed out to us that candidate L. Rickie Tulloch challenged Lieberman’s signatures, though we were unable to confirm that.
Alongside Bichotte, Adolphe, and Tulloch, Victor A. Jordan is also running for the seat being vacated by Jacobs after 36 years.
A member of the Citizens Union Candidates Committee team that interviewed Bichotte and Jacobs during the primary two years ago, which Bichotte lost, Lieberman said he was dismayed with Bichotte’s answers during the interview process.
“When we asked Rodneyse why she was running, the only thing she came up with was that she was Haitian, and there should be a Haitian woman in the Assembly,” Lieberman said. “I don’t disagree with that, but it’s not the only reason.”
Bichotte’s campaign scoffed at Lieberman’s remark.
“Rodneyse Bichotte can’t help the fact that she is indeed a Haitian-American, an attribute that has transformed her into a strong advocate for the growing immigrant community of Haitian-Americans living in the 42nd Assembly District,” said a campaign spokesman. “It is one of many traits, along with her proven leadership, that makes her the best choice for the people of the 42ndAssembly District.”
Lieberman said when the Citizens Union team pressed Bichotte further and asked for five things she wanted to do if elected, “the only thing she had on her list two years ago was that she wanted to stop voter ID laws.”
“We said there were no voter ID laws in New York,” Lieberman continued. “That seemed to throw her, and she said, ‘I want to make sure we never have any.'”
A campaign spokesman Bichotte said, “clearly, Mark Lieberman has a flawed recollection of both the facts and the issues, as Rodneyse Bichotte did not at that time chip in on the conversation about voter ID laws.”
“She did, however call, for greater translation services in one of the largest Haitian-American districts in New York,” the spokesman continued.
Bichotte, a Democratic district leader, has racked up a large number of endorsements during her campaign, and this week she announced de Blasio is backing her bid for office. It is the mayor’s first Assembly endorsement since taking office as mayor.
“I’ve had the privilege of watching Rodneyse Bichotte grow into a great leader and organizer in her time in public service, and I am confident that she will be not just a fierce advocate for the people in her district, but also a strong leader for the city of New York,” de Blasio said in a statement released by Bichotte’s campaign.
During yesterday’s interview, Lieberman said he believed the mayor’s backing comes because he is “repaying a debt.”
“I think he was repaying a debt because she was one of the first, if not the first, black party leaders to endorse him,” Lieberman said. “I don’t see him coming into the district campaigning. I don’t know if he does robo call it’ll sway many voters…endorsements don’t bring votes.”
Bichotte’s campaign said this statement from Lieberman stems from his anger over being knocked off the ballot.
“Mayor de Blasio and District Leader Rodneyse Bichotte have been longtime partners in implementing greater opportunity for all New Yorkers,” said a campaign spokesman. “To say that the mayor is repaying a debt is simply wrong and just seems to be in response to an unfortunate turn of events for Mark Lieberman and his campaign.”