Democrat Bernadette Semple—a primary challenger to indicted Queens State Senator Malcolm Smith—fended off an effort today by Queens Democratic establishment-backed rival Leroy Comrie, a former city councilman, to boot her from the ballot.
Ms. Semple, a former Navy commander and political newcomer, blasted Mr. Comrie and his backers in the Queens County Democratic Party for their unsuccessful challenge to her nominating petition signatures, and for pressing ahead with an appeal of the Board of Elections that has allowed her to stay on the ballot in the September primary. Ms. Semple noted that the establishment—led by Congressman Joe Crowley—that sought eliminate her as an opponent is the same one that helps elect the county’s judges.
“The machine behind Leroy Comrie has shown repeatedly that the courts are its favorite weapon to deny the people of Queens a choice against their corrupt candidates,” Ms. Temple said in a statement. “In Queens’s courts, the deck is stacked against independent reform candidates, such as myself, because the machine controls the selection of judges. The machine has consistently opposed candidates that they can’t control using every corrupt weapon in their arsenal.”
Mr. Smith, the embattled Democratic incumbent, was arrested last year for allegedly attempting to bribe his way into the Republican mayoral primary. A federal judge declared a mistrial on the senator’s case in June, and a second round of proceedings are scheduled for January next year–well after election day.
Mr. Smith—who was once the Democratic majority leader—was expelled from the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference shortly after his indictment. He currently does not have a caucus.
Mr. Comrie, who served three terms in the council and formerly headed the Queens delegation, has racked up a slew of endorsements from labor and fellow politicians including Mr. Crowley. His camp declined to comment on the challenge to Ms. Semple’s petitions or the appeal.