After counting paper ballots, Marte still down more than 200 votes

Chris Marte ran for Democratic State Committee a couple of years ago but was beaten by Lee Berman. Berman has since given up the seat.
Christopher Marte handing out his campaign fliers outside Washington Market Park on Fri., Sept. 8. After more than 500 absentee and afidavit ballots were counted this Tuesday, Marte was set to concede victory to Chin this week. Photos by Milo Hess

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | Updated Fri., Sept. 22, 1:30 p.m.: Christopher Marte was still waiting this week for the results of the Sept. 12 primary election in the First City Council District to be certified — but he indicated that he was, in fact, on the verge of conceding the race to Margaret Chin.

And yet, he also claimed victory.

“I think losing by 200 votes shows we defeated her,” Marte told The Villager. “We need change. Having been a two-term incumbent, she’s entrenched. She had all the publicity. And having two other candidates take 10 percent of the vote. …”

Had two other candidates — Aaron Foldenauer and Dashia Imperiale — not also run in the primary, it’s very possible that Marte would have won.

“If either one of them had backed down, it would have changed everything,” Marte, 28, reflected.

There is some talk of Marte now possibly running in the November general election on a third-party line. But he said he’s not ready to announce anything about that at this point, and doesn’t want to give his supporters false hope.

As of press time, the Democratic primary election results still had not been certified. Marte said they had hoped for that to happen Tuesday, but with the start of Rosh Hashanah looming Wednesday evening, the certification was slightly delayed. He said he’s hoping it will now happen as soon as the end of this week.

However, a Chin campaign spokesperson said they were told by the Board of Elections the certification would be on Tues., Sept. 26.

Margaret Chin campaigning in Tribeca the Friday before the primary election. Christopher Marte, her main challenger, was campaigning right nearby her.

“No certification yet,” Marte reported. “According to our hand tally based off the counting of the affidavit and absentee ballots, Margaret ended up being 207 votes ahead. Absentee ballots trended toward Margaret because of the senior centers, but affidavit ballots trended toward me because of the last-minute poll site changes for my home electoral districts, and the E.D.’s where I was expected to do well.”

According to Marte, many supporters of the Elizabeth St. Garden in and around Little Italy had their poll site changed from Allen St. to E. Fifth St., while residents of the Smith Houses had their usual poll site — one of the largest in the district — divided at the last minute into two different sites, “causing a lot of confusion,” as he put it.

Affidavit ballots are used when a voter shows up at a poll site but his or her name is not on the list of registered Democrats for that district.

Also, Marte cautiously said that, “through a sort of fluke,” he might possibly have secured the Independence Party line for the general election. Basically, it turned out that six registered Independence Party voters penciled in Marte’s name as a write-in candidate on primary day, which may have been enough to win him the line. But he said that primary election, too, also still needs to be certified and that he had not been in touch with Independence Party officials about the situation.

In short, Marte said he still wants to “see if it’s a viable option” to run on the Independence line on Nov. 7.

On Tuesday, the candidates were down at the Board of Elections office to observe the “counting of the paper” — the official counting of 300-plus valid affidavit and 250 absentee ballots.

“Chin had her lawyer, her campaign manager Paul Leonard, two consultants and Jamie Rogers, the chairperson of Community Board 3, as well as District Leader Jenny Low and others, were sitting in the back row, I’m guessing to show their support,” Marte said. “Our lawyer told us there was no reason to bring anyone extraneous, so I went there with my lawyer, a friend who has experience in recounts, and my campaign manager.”

Even after the counting of the more than 550 ballots, the overall numbers didn’t change that much.

“Margaret did hold her margin,” Marte conceded. “We counted [a difference of] 207 [votes]. They counted 220. She prevailed. It’s sad for all of us,” he told The Villager. “We worked really hard and we did everything we could. We had a really good showing.”

Though he had not officially conceded as of press time, wanting to await the election’s certification, he clearly indicated that he planned to do so.

Marte said the margin of difference would have to have been lower — 0.5 percent — in order to go to court and demand a recount.

Plus, he added, “We don’t have solid evidence of irregularities.” While the poll-site changes were inconvenient and confusing, they were not illegal, he said.

In a statement, the Chin campaign said, “After a campaign in which Christopher Marte painfully distorted the truth, spread lies about Councilwoman Chin, misled the electorate about endorsements and intimidated voters on Primary Day, Councilwoman Chin’s lead still managed to increase to 224 votes. Her victory is not hers alone. It is a victory for all New Yorkers who want a more livable, affordable city.”

The Chin campaign stressed that the final differential was exactly 224 votes, and added that Imperiale and Foldenauer actually took away votes from Chin in the race — especially Imperiale on the Lower East, “where Margaret has been very popular over the years.”

Later Tuesday evening, Marte spoke at the full-board meeting of Community Board 2 and received an ovation, as he thanked everyone who supported his upstart campaign that shockingly nearly toppled a two-term incumbent.

Marte proudly said his candidacy resonated with voters in Greenwich Village, Soho and the South Village “who had their platforms heard” through his campaign. On the other hand, voters in those areas were frustrated by “just the unresponsiveness of [Chin’s] office,” he said. He also had strong support at the polls in the Two Bridges area — between the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges — where a coming explosion of “supertall” towers, adding to one that has already been built, threatens to radically transform the area. Marte also ran strongly in northern Tribeca and in the area around his home on Rivington St. between the Bowery and Allen St. and up to Houston St.

Meanwhile, Chin did best in her core support base of Chinatown and Confucius Plaza. Even in many electoral districts Chin won, though, she only bested Marte by one vote, he noted.

For his part, Foldenauer last week said he is definitely running again in the general election — in his case, on the Liberal Party line.

“Voter turnout was abysmal in the Democratic Primary, and only 5 percent of all registered voters cast their ballot for Margaret Chin,” Foldenauer said Wednesday. “As the Liberal Party candidate, I look forward to reaching out to all 97,000 registered voters in Lower Manhattan and working to defeat Margaret Chin on Nov. 7.”

Both he and Imperiale have defiantly rejected being branded as spoilers in last week’s Democratic primary.

Marte thanked The Villager for hosting a debate among the primary-election candidates a few weeks ago at Judson Church. Though Chin ducked the event, Marte said, “it was the toughest debate” of the election season, and was a good way for the candidates to get their messages out to the community.

After the debate, one Soho activist, a Marte supporter, remarked that he was very worried at the presence of Foldenauer and Imperiale in the race.

“Chin always gets her 6,000 votes,” he said, worrying that the other three would divide up the rest.

This time around, in the end, Chin got more than 5,400 votes. The two also-rans ultimately did rack up more than 1,100 votes between the two of them.

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