West New York BOE candidate DQ’ed after incumbent challenges petitions

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A West New York Board of Education candidate was removed from the ballot after an incumbent challenged the validity of his petitions for nomination. Nico Behncke

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

Nico Behncke, an outspoken critics of the Mayor Felix Roque administration, had his petitions challenged by Damarys Gonzalez – the current vice president of the board and the only incumbent seeking re-election in what was a nine-person race for three, three-year terms on the board.

According to a letter Gonzalez submitted to the Hudson County Board of Elections on Friday, she asked for an investigation into four of the 13 people who signed Behncke’s petitions for nomination.

Each candidate needed 10 verified signatures from registered voters. Gonzalez alleged the four signatories in question weren’t registered to vote at their respective addresses.

“As a result only nine (9) signatures are valid, thus disqualifying the candidate,” she wrote on Friday.

Reached by Hudson County View, Behncke confirmed that the board of elections had since reached out to him and informed him he has been disqualified due to an insufficient number of signatures.

As of yesterday, he said he was unsure how he would proceed forward but planned on speaking with an attorney some time today.

This would mark the second year in a row that a West New York BOE candidate was disqualified due to invalid signatures.

Behncke was rumored to be the third member of the second incarnation of the Save Our Schools ticket, along with Alex Navas and Melinda Saunders.

Navas vaguely implied that was part of the original plan, but indicated that was inconsequential moving forward.

“If he is disqualified, it doesn’t matter anymore. I don’t want to alienate anyone,” he said via text message.

Saunders declined to comment while Behncke did not return an email seeking further comment.

Independents on the ballot that SOS could potentially recruit are Jose Alcantara, an unlikely choice since he ran on the Roque-backed Children First slate last year, John Smith, another administration critic, and newcomer Johanna Ortez.

While it is yet to be formally announced, Maite Fernandez and Jose Mendoza are expected to round out the Children First Slate, replacing Trustee Steven Rodas and Alcantara.

Gonzalez did not return immediately return a call seeking further comment.

The West New York BOE election is on November 7th.

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