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Stephen Burke to file ethics complaint after being kicked off the ballot in NY21 primary

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WATERTOWN — Stephen W. Burke, the Macomb man who sought to challenge Aaron G. Woolf in the Democratic primary for New York’s 21st Congressional District, is bringing an ethics complaint against the attorney who had him removed from the ballot.

Mr. Burke said Friday that his attorney, James L. Monroe of Canton, will file a motion against state Board of Elections co-counsel Kathleen O’Keefe, the attorney who represented St. Lawrence County Democrat Jason R. Clark in an objection to Mr. Burke’s ballot petitions.

At the time, Ms. O’Keefe had been selected as co-counsel of the state board, but had not yet started the job.

According to her LinkedIn profile, she assumed responsibilities as co-counsel in July.

On Sunday, Mr. Burke said he was not surprised by a story appearing on a Daily News blog linking Ms. O’Keefe to the Woolf campaign.

Ms. O’Keefe was paid $12,630 by the Woolf campaign in April and May, despite representing Mr. Clark.

The Daily News story, which appeared on the Mouth of the Potomac blog, suggested Ms. O’Keefe had a conflict of interest in representing Mr. Clark before the Board of Elections because she already had been appointed co-counsel to the board.

It is on those grounds that Mr. Burke said he is filing the complaint.

“I don’t know if it is being filed today or next week,” he said.

A call to the state Board of Elections was not immediately returned Friday morning.

Yianni Varonis, a spokesman for Mr. Woolf, provided the following statement:

“In the State of New York, the legislature has deemed that as part of the democratic process, prospective candidates are required to obtain a certain amount of valid signatures before they can legally run for office. To ensure that everyone was playing fairly and by the same rules, our campaign sought to verify the legitimacy of each candidates’ petition and did so according to the laws set up in the State of New York for doing so. This is part of the democratic process laid out by state statute. In our case, the Board of Elections found that Stephen Burke did not have the legally required amount of valid signatures to run for Congress, and so he did not qualify for the ballot pursuant to the laws of the State of New York. Elise Stefanik’s campaign made an effort to determine whether one of her opponents had filed the legally required number of signatures but, in doing so, even accused her Republican primary opponent, Matt Doheny, of ballot fraud. That is a much more serious accusation. And in that case, no fraud was found.”

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