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Veteran Buffalo Board of Education member Ralph Hernandez and Central District candidate Joseph Mascia were both knocked off the ballot Wednesday by the Erie County Board of Elections for not having enough qualified petition signatures.

But Hernandez will be in court Tuesday in an effort to get 90 invalidated signatures restored and have his name returned to the ballot. If that fails, he said, he will wage an aggressive write-in campaign to gain re-election to his West District seat in the May 7 vote.

“Whether it happens or not, I’m in the race,” he said. “My constituents know how to spell my name.”

Hernandez, a nine-year board member and former board president, is being challenged by James Sampson, president of Gateway-Longview child services agency.

Wednesday’s decisions by the Board of Elections drop the number of officially contested races for six open School Board seats down to three. Last week, East District incumbent Rosalyn L. Taylor had petition signatures invalidated, leaving her opponent, Theresa Harris-Tigg, unchallenged.

Hernandez, who first won his seat as a write-in candidate in 2004, said he’s counting on the Hispanic and immigrant community to stand by him in the election despite facing Sampson, an organized and well-financed opponent.

“If Mr. Paladino and my opponent want me off the board, they’re going to have to beat me,” said Hernandez, referring to the challenge to his petition by a Democratic operative with ties to former Erie County Democratic Chairman Steven Pigeon, a friend of developer Carl Paladino, who is a candidate in the Park District. “I’ve got my base here. They’re not going to take that from me.”

Hernandez’s appeal to have signatures restored will be heard Tuesday by State Supreme Court Justice John Michalski. Sampson’s legal effort to keep Hernandez off the ballot will come before the judge the same day.

Meanwhile, Mascia said that since he is no longer in the running for the Central District seat, he is offering his support for fellow challenger Bryon McIntyre against School Board President Mary Ruth Kapsiak. “Mr. McIntyre is an independent voice for the children of Buffalo who attend public schools and will make an excellent Central District representative,” he said. “Ms. Kapsiak seems to continue to be part of an ongoing problem instead of a solution.”

News Staff Reporter Mark Sommer contributed to this report. email: stan@buffnews.com