by Matthew Turner
April 3, 2014
Democrat Steven Burke, a town councilman from Macomb who is running to represent the 21st Congressional District in Washington, has been lying about his age to newspaper reporters.
St. Lawrence County Democratic Chairman Mark Bellardini said he knew Burke was 10 years older than he's been saying.
"All the newspapers I've seen have 67 (years old)," Bellardini said. "I come up with 77."
Burke's age was reported as 67 in several newspapers when he announced he was running for Congress in early March. That's what he told the Enterprise, too.
The Enterprise confirmed with the Board of Elections in St. Lawrence County that Burke's age is indeed 77. An election official there said the date of birth he wrote on two voter registration forms is Nov. 13, 1936.
"That's true. I am 77," Burke told the Enterprise, when asked about it.
He claims he wasn't lying about his age, saying it was probably just "wishful thinking" when he told reporters he was 67.
There is some speculation by Democratic county officials that Burke will not get the 1,250 signatures he needs by Monday to force a Democratic primary, but Burke said in a phone interview Tuesday that he was already over the required amount. That would mean three parties would have primary elections for the Congress seat, with candidates from the Republican Party, Democratic and Green parties saying they have enough signatures.
Fellow Democratic candidate Aaron Woolf of Elizabethtown will have enough signatures, according to his campaign. Woolf is the party leaders' choice.
Republican candidates Elise Stefanik of Wilsboro, Matt Doheny of Watertown and Joe Gilbert of DeKalb Junction expect to face each other in the June 26 primary.
David Catalfamo is spokesman for Doheny, the most recent Republican to join the race. He said they are confident they will have the needed signatures.
Gilbert said he has more than the needed amount.
Green Party candidates Donald Hassig of Colton and Matt Funiciello of Glens Falls will also likely have a primary, if Hassig can get 23 more signatures by Monday's deadline. The two candidates are also planning a debate. Green Party candidates need 5 percent of their registered voters, or about 55 signatures total, to qualify for the ballot.
The candidates will begin filing their petitions on April 7, they are seeking to replace the retiring three-term Congressman Bill Owens, a Democrat from Plattsburgh.
Burke claims his fellow Democrats have been "lining up against him" attempting to block his access to the primary ballot, but the county chairs deny any unfair campaign tactics. Woolf's campaign would not return phone calls by press time.
"They really want to knock us off," Burke said.
"I can't believe what they are doing," he added. "If they hear I'm in a county, they'll have half a dozen people in there the next day trying to get the signatures first. ... I try to hit different counties to throw them off."
This has happened in Canton and Ogdensburg in St. Lawrence County, he claims.
Bellardini, Hamilton County Democratic Chairwoman Linda Mitchell and Herkimer County Chairman Rick Souza all deny Burke's claim.
"I never got an email stating that specifically," Bellardini said. "They (Woolf campaign) may have some paid people in the counties (collecting signatures), but that's normal."
Mitchell said if she knew the Burke campaign was collecting in her area, she would get her people to work harder, but that's it.
"I would never block anybody, though," Mitchell said. "I believe in the Democratic process."
Burke also worries there could be a legal challenge of his petition signatures, in an attempt to kick him off the ballot.
"If I get on the ballot, Mr. Woolf is going to have a problem," Burke said.
Candidates and their staff and volunteers have to follow a set of rules when collecting signatures. Petitions that are filled out incorrectly or that are not legitimate can face a legal challenge and potentially be thrown out.
"I think I'll weather all challenges," Burke said.
Burke said his fundraising at this point is nonexistent and that he is so far financing his own campaign.