Volume 76, Number 18 | September 20 - 26, 2006

Villager photo by Jefferson Siegel

Margaret Chan, right, with supporters at Grand Harmony restaurant on Mott St. on Saturday

Chan says blogs can’t spin her off bench

By Lincoln Anderson

With the results of the Second District Civil Court primary race still too close to call, Margaret Chan and her supporters rallied at the Grand Harmony restaurant in Chinatown on Saturday, warning that they will not allow the election to be “stolen.”

Most of those filling the seats and enjoying the buffet were from Confucius Plaza, the area with the judicial district’s highest Chinese population. The district runs south of 14th St. on the East Side, taking in parts of Soho, the Village, Little Italy and Chinatown. Chan and her supporters say for her to win would be a major stride for Chinese representation in New York City, where only a handful of elected officials and judges are Asian.

After the election, which initially had Chan up by about 40 votes over David Cohen in unofficial results, Lower East Side bloggers started spinning rumors that there had been “irregularities.” Three voting machines on Grand St. had been sabotaged, the blogs went, some said by sticking coins in the Cohen voting levers.

“I will tell you, there is a lot of noise out there,” said Scott Levenson, a Cohen campaign consultant, of the rumors. “There is frankly much more noise than I’ve ever heard. Nothing is substantiated,” he added. “There’s a lot of allegations.”

Chan is saying allegations are all there is, and that Cohen and by association Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver — who is supporting him — are trying to tarnish her apparent victory.

“It takes away from our win,” Chan said of the accusations. “I don’t have the political support. I’ve been playing it clean. In the beginning I said to David, ‘Let’s run a clean campaign and may the best candidate win.’ I won, and not because I cheated — and that’s a major, major insult.

“I’m going to be very busy doing the recount,” Chan said. “This is the most boring race during the election period, and now all this comes out because I beat Shelly Silver’s candidate.”

Of the negative blogs, she said, “The blog says what it says — maybe I need to put out my own blog.”

On Saturday, Michael Oliva, Chan’s campaign manager, reported Chan had picked up 108 votes, giving her a lead of about 130: A voting machine that had 120 votes for Chan had been incorrectly read on election night as having only 12. Oliva said he subsequently went down the Board of Elections and found out that only one voting machine on Grand St. had broken, after which 21 emergency paper ballots had been cast for that election district. There were about 170 paper ballots, including absentee and affidavit ballots. Fifty to 60 of the 170 were emergency ballots, Oliva said, which are usually counted right after the election.

Andrea Masley, a third candidate, came in a distant third.

“I think by Wednesday we’ll know, unless they try to pull something in court,” said Oliva.

The remaining uncounted paper ballots will be counted on Wednesday. Observing the process for Cohen will be his attorney, State Senator Martin Connor, and Jessica Loeser, an aide to Speaker Silver. Jim Quent, a Silver spokesperson, said Loeser was volunteering to help Cohen, whom she supports and is a friend of hers.

Connor discounted the rumors of voting irregularities.

“Please — anybody can say anything they want on a blog. Just because they say it doesn’t mean it’s true. I don’t pay any attention to blogs.”

Oliva was also campaign manager for Shlomo Hagler’s Civil Court victory three years ago in the same district, so Oliva has a familiarity with the district, which, he said, helped him forge a winning strategy with Chan.

Oliva said he met with Cohen, but decided to work for Chan.

“David Cohen is no Shlomo Hagler,” Oliva said.

A race that was supposed to be boring also got wild the day before the election, when Chan and her brothers, who were helping her out with the campaign, had a run-in with a supporter of Juan Pagan, who was running for Assembly. Both Chan and Greg Fischer — the Pagan supporter — agree he was tearing down Chan posters on Avenue D. He says the posters had been pasted on top of Pagan posters near a polling site. Chan says that Fischer had been hounding her to support bills in Albany for fathers’ custody rights, but she refused, and feels this angered him.

There was a verbal altercation and Fischer’s van, with Fischer in it, but not driving, came in contact with Michael Chan. Michael Chan says the van was veering into him at 15 miles per hour. But Fischer says Michael Chan chased him and broke the window.

Michael Chan was later handcuffed, held at the Ninth Precinct for seven hours and issued a desk appearance ticket. He says he’s willing to pay for the broken window.

“It was an unfortunate incident,” Michael Chan said. “It was a reaction. I did not mean to break the window. I don’t have any records of violence.”

However, another candidate, who requested anonymity, said Fischer — a former Department of Corrections officer from Long Island — was seen tearing down campaign posters for any candidates who did not support father’s rights legislation. The candidate was concerned about Fischer’s behavior.

“I was wondering why that van was driving around with cardboard in its window,” the candidate said. “It got to the point where I called my workers to check on them if they were O.K.”

Meanwhile, in the Assembly District race in the 74th District, Sylvia Friedman is still not conceding. Brian Kavanagh holds a lead of more than 350 votes, more than 3 percent of the total, going into the counting of paper ballots. Kavanagh said he’s received congratulatory calls from local election officials, including Congressmember Carolyn Maloney and Senator Hillary Clinton.

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