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School Board president Sampson knocked off ballot for May 3 election

Buffalo School Board President James M. Sampson was knocked off the ballot Thursday after county elections officials ruled he did not collect enough valid signatures to seek re-election May 3.

Sampson has until Monday to decide whether to go to State Supreme Court to try to overturn the ruling from Erie County Board of Elections commissioners and get back on the ballot.

North District incumbent Jason M. “Jay” McCarthy’s petitions also will end up in State Supreme Court for a final determination after they were challenged.

Sampson and McCarthy represent two-fifths of the board’s 5-member reform-oriented majority. If either is ultimately ruled ineligible to run, it would shatter the majority bloc unless other challengers aligned with that bloc win seats in other districts.

In another board ruling Thursday, Austin Harig, the high school student challenging Board Member Carl P. Paladino, will be on the ballot after surviving a challenge to his petitions by a scant nine signatures.

The elections commissioners ruled that Harig had 509 valid signatures. Candidates need 500 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Harig, a senior at Hutchinson-Central Technical High School, had collected 638 signatures to compete for the Park District seat held by Paladino, a key member of the majority bloc.

However, Paladino campaign manager Erik T. Bohen filed the challenge contesting 145 of the signatures in a bid to knock Harig off the ballot and assure the incumbent of another three-year term. If successful, the challenge would have left Harig seven signatures short of the required amount.

But after an hour-long public hearing, Democratic Elections Commissioner Leonard R. Lenihan and Republican Ralph M. Mohr ruled that Harig had enough valid signatures.

“He’s not knocking me off anymore,” Harig said, adding, “I’m hoping to run a fair race.”

Harig, 18, was represented by Jacqui Berger, a professor at Empire State College, who said she is working with him on his campaign. Berger was joined by attorney Jerry Shad.

Attorney Joe Burns represented Bohen, who did not attend the proceedings. Neither did Paladino.

Harig and Paladino are among 12 candidates hoping to compete for the six district seats, and all but two had challenges filed against their petitions. The elections board also was scheduled to hear challenges in the other board races Thursday.