Lea Purwin D'Agostino, a top contender for the 5th District City Council seat, was disqualified from the race Monday after election officials said she failed to submit enough valid signatures to qualify for the April ballot.
The decision followed a ruling by a Superior Court judge who ordered election officials to accept 24 signatures that were not previously counted because they either did not match up with voting records or were turned in late.
Despite the ruling by Judge Robert H. O'Brien, election officials said D'Agostino's nomination petition had the signatures of 465 registered voters, 35 signatures short of the 500 that are required.
"Obviously, I'm very disappointed but I'm a fighter and I'm not ready to give up," D'Agostino said Monday. She declined to say what steps she may take to get on the ballot but her campaign manager, Darry Srago, said D'Agostino's supporters will "put our heads together and consider the options."
But D'Agostino may have no options to consider. Kristin Heffron, chief of the city's elections division, said printing of the 5th District ballots will begin today.
The decision reduces the field of contenders to four: Jeff Brain, a Sherman Oaks businessman; Mike Feuer, the former head of a legal clinic; Roberta Weintraub, a former school board president; and Barbara Yaroslavsky, a Westside activist and the wife of Zev Yaroslavsky, the councilman who represented the district for 19 years before resigning to take a seat on the County Board of Supervisors.
The primary elections are April 11 and the general election is June 6.
D'Agostino, a 17-year deputy district attorney, was considered a significant factor in the race because she had the endorsement of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union that represents the rank and file of the Los Angeles Police Department.
A spokesman for the union said he was disappointed that D'Agostino would not be on the ballot. He added that union leaders will meet Wednesday to consider whether to endorse another candidate for the district, which encompasses portions of the Westside and the west San Fernando Valley.
D'Agostino's campaign appeared in trouble last week when election officials originally said that only 380 of her signatures were found to be valid. After she appealed to election officials and provided additional information on her petition, officials accepted 61 additional signatures, bringing the total to 441.
Still short of the 500 mark, she appealed Friday to O'Brien, asking that he order election officials to accept other signatures that were not originally accepted. For example, 22 signatures were misplaced and submitted to election officials hours after the bulk of her petition was turned in. Election officials rejected them because city bylaws require all the signatures to be submitted together.
O'Brien ruled Monday that election officials must count the late signatures as well as two others that were previously rejected because they did not match voter registration records.
In a previous interview, D'Agostino harshly criticized election officials, calling them "hypertechnical" for rejecting some signatures. She also accused them of misleading her campaign into believing she could submit some signatures early and more later if it was determined that the petition was short of the required number.
Election officials rejected such charges, saying all candidates have been required to submit all signatures at once.