Because of an editing error, a Metro article yesterday incorrectly stated that the two D.C. Council candidates who survived legal challenges to their campaigns before the D.C. Board of Elections were running for at-large seats. One, Suzanne Finney, is running as an independent in Ward 3. (Published 9/23/90)
Two at-large D.C. Council candidates survived challenges to their campaigns yesterday, but elections officials upheld decisions to disqualify two others from the race.
A challenge to Georgetown community activist Ray Browne, an independent, was withdrawn late yesterday after D.C. Board of Elections officials determined that he had sufficient signatures to qualify for the Nov. 6 general election.
A challenge against Suzanne Finney, an independent who is challenging council member Jim Nathanson (D-Ward 3), was resolved late Thursday night when the challenger withdrew her complaint.
However, the elections board sustained a recommendation to invalidate hundreds of petition signatures collected for Jim Harvey and R. Rochelle Burns, both of whom are independents. Rick Messick, who represented the two, said an appeal of yesterday's decision is likely.
The four candidates' filing petitions were challenged last week by private citizens, including supporters of rival candidates, who alleged that enough signatures were invalid on the four candidates' petitions to disqualify them.
Elections Registrar Joe Baxter ruled Wednesday that in each case, the number of invalid petition signatures was sufficient to bring the candidates below the minimum required to run in the general election.
The board requires 3,000 signatures from registered voters before a person can qualify as an at-large candidate. It requires 500 signatures for candidates in ward races.
The elections board conducted hearings with the candidates and their attorneys yesterday in an attempt to resolve the disputed challenges. But after a full day of debate, Messick was unable to persuade the board to validate the signatures for Harvey and Burns.
There were two challenges to Harvey's petitions. After reviewing the signatures this week, Baxter recommended that 725 signatures be invalidated, leaving Harvey 364 signatures short. In the other case, Baxter ruled that 647 signatures were invalid, leaving him 286 short.
Baxter this week recommended that 460 of Burns's signatures be ruled invalid, leaving him with a 132-signature deficit.
Messick argued that some qualifying rules need to be changed and that the at-large contenders are being denied the right to run.
Election rules state that signatures must be collected from registered voters and that names and addresses must be correct. But the board has leeway in interpreting the validity of signatures on a case-by-case basis.
In one instance, 75 petition signatures collected for Harvey were invalidated because the woman who collected the signatures could not prove that she was properly registered to vote.
Browne, Harvey and Burns said they believed their rivals were behind the challenges in attempts to eliminate them from the at-large race. Clarene Martin, an independent in the contest, said her supporters participated in the challenges.
"My supporters insisted on doing this," said Martin, a labor lawyer who attended the hearing.
Ronald B. Millar, one of two people who challenged Harvey's petitions, said in a brief interview that he is supporting incumbent council member Hilda H.M. Mason (Statehood-At Large), who was unopposed in the primary.
"It's an act of cowardice, and in the long run it's going to damage the candidacies of the two people who are behind these challenges," said Harvey, a former administrator of the Whitman-Walker Clinic.
Two at-large council seats are up for election this year. Also in the race are D.C. school board member Linda Cropp, the Democratic nominee, and Mayor Marion Barry, who is running as an independent. W. Cardell Shelton is the Republican candidate in the race.