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Rockefeller will ask court to place him on ballot

By MORGAN LYLE

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Laurance Rockefeller plans to appeal Wednesday's state Board of Elections ruling that he failed to qualify for a primary battle with Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, a spokeswoman said Wednesday.

Elections Commissioner Owen Smith, a Republican, ruled that only 6, 860 of the 10,774 petition signatures submitted by Rockefeller's campaign were valid. State election law requires 10,000 valid signatures to run in the primary.

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His ruling was in response to a challenge to Rockefeller's petitions by Peter Savago, the Ulster County Republican chairman and a D'Amato supporter.

Carole Florman, a spokeswoman for Rockefeller, said the nephew of former governor and vice president Nelson Rockefeller will appeal Smith's ruling Friday morning to state Supreme Court.

'We're convinced that when the state Supreme Court looks at the basis on which many of the signatures were rejected, the court will agree with us that they should be restored,' Florman said.

Rockefeller has also sued the Board of Elections in federal court. That suit seeks to have the number of signatures he needs reduced to 7, 500.

Attorneys for Rockefeller and the board were scheduled to meet with U.S. District Court Judge John Martin Thursday afternoon to file briefs in that suit, Florman said.

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D'Amato was running unopposed and appeared to be cruising toward his party's nomination to a third term when Rockefeller announced his last- minute candidacy July 8.

State GOP Chairman William Powers, a former top aide to D'Amato, has placed the party's organization squarely behind the incumbent.

Florman claims most New York Republicans are disappointed in D'Amato, especially on the question of abortion rights, and attacked the party leadership for 'denying them a choice.'

'They're out of step with their constituents,' she said. 'They're out of touch with the voters of their party.'

Florman cited a poll of 600 registered Republicans conducted for the Rockefeller campaign by a New Hampshire polling firm.

The poll showed '80 percent disagree with Al D'Amato on abortion and other fundamental issues,' she said.

'We feel that Larry Rockefeller is the best thing that could happen to the Republican Party in New York. I don't think Al D'Amato could beat the Democrats,' she said.

An environmental lawyer, Rockefeller supports abortion rights and more protection of the environment, positions traditionally held by Democrats.

Powers has said Rockefeller is 'in the wrong party.'

D'Amato faces what observers have called a strong challenge from a field of four Democrats -- state Attorney General Robert Abrams, former congresswoman and vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro, New York city comptroller and former congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman, and civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton.

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If necessary, the Republican primary will be on the same day as the Democratic primary, Sept. 15.

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