Brooklyn Surrogate's Court 2005

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Monday, November 07, 2005

Judge: Surrogate race result stands

Judge: Surrogate race result stands
November 1, 2005

BY HUGH SON
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

Surrogate Court candidate Margarita Lopez Torres finally claimed victory last night, beating the Brooklyn Democratic machine-backed candidate.
The electoral saga ended not with a bang, but a whimper: A two-sentence decision from federal Judge Raymond Dearie released yesterday dismissed a last-ditch effort to overturn the result of the Sept. 13 primary, which Lopez Torres won by 102 votes.

Lawyers for party-backed candidate Diana Johnson apparently exhausted all their legal options, said Lopez Torres' campaign manager, Gary Tilzer.

"For the first time since the election, there are no court cases pending," said Tilzer.

Lopez Torres is running unopposed in the Nov. 8 general election on the Democratic ticket.

The closeness of September's Surrogate Court election - both Lopez Torres and Johnson got about 39% of the vote - prompted fevered recounting and lawsuits alleging several hundred disqualified paper ballots should be included in the final tally.

After a Queens State Supreme Court judge dismissed a pair of lawsuits filed by Johnson and the Brooklyn Democratic organization, the Elections Board certified Lopez Torres' victory.

But Johnson's lawyer Mitch Alter convinced the state Appellate Division to force the counting of about 900 disputed paper ballots last week - which resulted in Johnson losing by twice as many votes. Lopez Torres picked up an additional 103 votes in a recount that ended Friday.

Alter agreed that Lopez Torres had won, saying that because "the federal suit was denied, as far as I can see, it's all over."

Lopez Torres is considered a key reform figure in a position that is especially vulnerable to corruption. The Surrogate Court handles the estates of the deceased and millions of dollars in lawyers' fees, making it a post the county Democratic organization desperately wanted to keep in the family.

"She didn't have as much money as the other candidates, yet she gave the voters of Brooklyn a choice of real reform, and the voters responded," Tilzer said.

Originally published on November 1, 2005

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