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

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WATERTOWN — It appears that Democrat Aaron G. Woolf will run unopposed by a member of his own party in the race for the 21st Congressional District.

New York state Supreme Court Justice Kimberly A. O’Connor dismissed potential challenger Stephen W. Burke’s request to overturn the determination of the state Board of Elections to invalidate Mr. Burke’s ballot petitions for having an insufficient number of 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.

“The bottom line is that New York State has certain rules,” Mr. Clark said, speaking of Mr. Burke. “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 Mr. Burke had previously been the county’s Democratic chairman and had run for office before, so was well aware of what he needed to do to stay on the ballot.

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

Mr. Burke could appeal the justice’s decision but said that 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 that 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 the strength of his campaign in an email.

“I am excited by the momentum of the campaign,” Mr. Woolf said.“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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