Two Candidates Declare Victory
By Natalia Kozikowska
The morning after the special election for the 31st District Council seat, two candidates held their heads up high and declared victory.
|Both Donovan Richards and Pesach Osina (pictured with Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder) declared victory in the special election for Council District 31. Richards led Osina by just 26 votes. Photos by Ira Cohen and Luis Gronda|
But the race to fill State Sen. James Sanders’ (D-Laurelton) vacant Council seat is still too close to call, with the heavily favored Donovan Richards just 26 votes ahead of Pesach Osina, a Jewish Orthodox candidate.
The Board of Elections ceased counting just after midnight on Feb. 20, with a mere 2.63 percent of votes unread. According to Valerie Vazquez, a spokesperson for the BOE, paper and absentee ballots also need to be counted and it will take at least one week before any official winner is announced.
Vazquez explained that during the counting process, a single USB flash drive from a ballot scanner could not be read. This flash drive will be taken to be read on a different computer so its votes can be counted. As it stands, Richards had 2,513 votes (30.05 percent) and Osina has 2,487 (29.73 percent).
Donovan Richards - 2,513 (30.05 percent)
Pesach Osina - 2,487 (29.73 percent)
Jacques Leandre - 1,160 (13.87 percent)
Michael Duncan - 962 (11.5 percent)
Selvena Brooks - 817 (9.77 percent)
Marie Adam-Ovide - 159 (1.9 percent)
Saywallah Kesselly - 152 (1.82 percent)
Allan Jennings - 114 (1.36 percent)
Editor’s Note: Results provided by the Board of Elections, but are not official until the remaining paper ballots have been counted.
But this did not stop both candidates from proclaiming their victory. The morning of the news, Richards tweeted, “Happy to announce I am the Councilman!” and “Pesach Osina ran a hell of a campaign.”
The former chief of staff to Sanders also hinted to his Twitter followers that the BOE is missing votes from locations like P.S. 52 in Jamaica, Ocean Village, St. Claire’s in Rosedale and PS 270 in Laurelton – predominately African American neighborhoods. The tweet was not confirmed by Vazquez.
Richards was unable to be reached for comment as of press time but he declared victory at his campaign party in Laurelton.
Osina, a former staffer for Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder (D-Ozone Park), who held his campaign party in his Far Rockaway office, similarly declared himself the winner to a group of supporters, whom were mostly Jewish Orthodox.
“While we are still uncertain of the total numbers, when every vote is counted, we will be victorious,” he said. He went on to thank his opponents for all they have done and said he was “looking forward to working with them in the days and weeks ahead.”
Osina has been a relatively low-key candidate with limited media contact. Still, in the weeks before the election, locals expressed concern that the votes for Black candidates would be split and Osina might be able to pull out a win.
On Feb. 5 at the first candidate’s forum for the seat, the outspoken Rev. Charles Norris of the Bethesda Missionary Baptist Church in Jamaica asked each of the candidates if they would be willing to drop out of the race so a Black candidate would win.
“You have one white person from Far Rockaway that’s in the race. Jews vote in a block,” he said. “They will knock every one of you out. Which one of you thinks you are best to run to beat the Jew that’s running in Far Rockaway?” he continued to ask.
None of the six candidates in attendance offered to drop out of the race and all but one, Saywalah Kesselly, said they would be running again in the November primaries.
More than 8,300 of the 84,000 registered voters in District 31 came out for the election and votes are still being counted. A 2012 report shows that the district has more than a 65 percent African American population and just slightly fewer than 12 percent of white constituents.
Reporters Luis Gronda and Joe Marvilli contributed to this report.
Reach Reporter Natalia Kozikowska at (718)357-7400 Ext. 123 or email@example.com.