The complicated set of rules that govern the petitioning process are deliberately set up to thwart potential challengers to established candidates. Without a well-run and financed political machine behind you, it's easy to find yourself breaking those rules and facing a costly court challenge that can sink a grassroots campaign.
We have a feeling S.J. Jung has faced that exact situation before.
Jung is a Democrat who is challenging State Senator Toby Stavisky for her seat, which runs from Flushing through Forest Hills and all the way to Elmhurst, among other neighborhoods.
A cynical person might look at the odd-shaped district and assume it was drawn in such a way to give an Asian candidate a leg up, but Stavisky has been able to hold on to her seat since the lines were redrawn years ago.
This isn't Jung's first go-around in politics; he has run for office unsuccessfully in the past. And we think he learned a thing or two in those other campaigns, as this week he stole a page from the usual playbook of the powerful county parties in New York City and went after Stavisky's own petitions.
In fact, he went for the jugular, challenging 3,502 of the 3,515 signatures the state senator filed to get on the ballot. If you're not very good at math, if Jung were actually successful in getting those signatures ruled invalid, which is probably a long shot, that would leave Stavisky with just 13 valid signatures.
We're not fully up to date on our state election law, but we're pretty confident in saying that is far less than what you need to get on the ballot. (The number is actually 1,000, thank you very much Google.)
Jung claims that of Stavisky's signatures, 1,081 were from other states or out of the district. Of those within the district, 195 were not signed by Democrats, 655 were people who were not registered at all, and 1,504 signatures and addresses were illegible beyond recognition.
Additionally, five of her witnesses, Jung claims, were not qualified to gather signatures at all.
On July 11, the Jung campaign turned in 3,347 signatures, some of which we're sure Stavisky and her team will attempt to challenge as a way to return the favor.
For her part, Stavisky wasn't in the mood to discuss Jung's challenge, which he announced just one hour before the state senator appeared at an event in Flushing. When asked by a reporter about the issue, her staff said campaign questions weren't allowed and they didn't have a comment.
It looks like Jung is at the very least going to make this an interesting race.