At-large Councilman Michael Brown will appear on the November ballot after regulators ruled Monday that although nearly one-third of the signatures he submitted in support of his campaign were invalid, he submitted enough signatures to qualify for re-election.
Dorothy Brizill, a longtime government watchdog, and David Grosso, one of Brown's general election opponents, filed separate challenges last month to Brown's petitions, arguing that signatures were forged, illegible or from unregistered voters.
The elections board ultimately voided about 1,500 of the signatures Brown filed, leaving him with fewer than 3,200 valid signatures. Brown, who did not attend a Monday hearing on the matter, needed 3,000 names to guarantee a spot on the ballot.
Ahead of the board's ruling -- but after Grosso and Brizill acknowledged it appeared the lawmaker would remain a candidate -- Brown's spokesman dismissed the challenges as baseless.
"We never thought this hearing was serious," Asher Corson said. "We never felt like we were close to getting kicked off the ballot."
Corson also said it wasn't unusual for regulators to strike so many signatures.
"There has never been a petition challenge in history where a large percentage of signatures were not thrown out," Corson said. "To say that because this amount of signatures was thrown out means anything, I think is disingenuous."
Grosso said, though, that the episode had exposed flaws in Brown's campaign.
"This is just another thing where we're going to be able to show that Council member Brown was not doing the hard work necessary in order to get on the ballot," Grosso said. "You had people misspelling their own names. How do you misspell your own name?"
As evidence of possible malfeasance, Brizill and Grosso had both pointed to one name on Brown's petitions that appeared to be spelled "Muman" or "Numan." Voter registration records identified the person's last name as "Newman."
That prompted Gary Imhoff, who is Brizill's husband and helped to prepare the challenge, to allege the elections board applied a "close enough" standard to evaluate Brown's signatures.
"If you squinted real hard and made allowances," Imhoff said, some of the signatures could be deemed valid.