Campaigns In Queens
Luis Rosen is one of several Democrats looking to unseat an incumbent. Tribune photo by Azi Paybarah.
By Azi Paybarah
With the Democratic National Convention in Boston over, and the Republican National Convention less than a month away in Manhattan, loyalists are mending fences within their national parties and rallying around their respective presidential candidates.
Further down the ticket, however, there are several Democrats looking to unseat other Democrats in the Sept. 14 primary elections. There is even a primary for Republicans, who are outnumbered by Democrats in Queens roughly five to one.
Assembly Member Barry Grodenchik of Flushing and State Senator John Sabini of Jackson Heights both face well-financed opponents in ethnically divided districts that already elected the city’s first Asian American and the borough’s first Hispanic elected officials, respectively.
Grodenchik and Sabini both won three-way primaries in 2002 where they faced two ethnic candidates a-piece. Now, Sabini will go head-to-head with his challengers, while Grodenchik again faces a three-way race.
Other Democrats facing primary challenges include three members of Congress, two of whom voted for the war in Iraq and the U.S. Patriot Act. Other incumbents fighting for their party’s support are three members of the State Legislature, which is on pace to pass the latest state budget in New York’s history.
Flushing: 22nd Assembly District
Grodenchik won his Assembly seat in 2002 after squeaking to a 126-vote victory in a three-way primary that included two other Asian candidates: businessman Jimmy Meng, his challenger this year, and Ethel Chen. Chen is now campaigning with Meng as a candidate for District Leader, trying to unseat Martha Flores-Vazquez, a Grodenchik ally.
In 2002, Grodenchik defeated Meng 1,639 to 1,513. Chen netted 1,005 votes. The closeness of the Grodenchik-Meng 2002 race is evident in the seesaw - like results from neighboring election districts (EDs). Grodenchik lost the 12th ED to Meng, 17 to 65. In the 13th ED, Grodenchik won 75 to 18. Meng won the 20th ED by 14 votes, then lost the following ED to Grodenchik by 14 votes.
This year, Grodenchik has the backing of Flushing Councilman John Liu, the first Asian American elected to city office. Grodenchik also raised $74,290 since January’s filing, leaving him with $116,113.55 heading into the September 14 contest.
Meng, owner of the Flushing-based Queens Lumber Company, has $60,897.24 on hand, after lending himself $119,000 between May 20 and June 28. According to his July filing, Meng spent $19,500 on lawyers, more than $24,000 on wages for campaign employees, and has $219,000 listed under “outstanding loans and liabilities.”
Joining this rematch from the last primary is Benjamin Singer, who will run with the support of former Flushing Councilwoman Julia Harrison’s Democratic Club. There are 24,445 registered Democrats in this district, according to online figures from the NYC Board of Elections (BOE).
Jackson Heights: 13th Senate District
This race pits John Sabini – who was appointed to Community Board 3 at age 19, and was term-limited from the City Council in 2001 – against Luis Rosero – a local activist with ties to the Clinton White House and the National Democratic Party, who heads the Corona Homeowners Association.
Sabini won the newly created 13th Senatorial seat after netting 4,838 votes in a three-way primary race against Nester Diaz and Charlie Castro. Diaz got 3,633 and Castro got 1,957.
But inside the 13th Senate District is the 39th Assembly District, which Diaz won, 1,374 to Sabini’s 1,194. Assemblyman Jose Peralta represents that District, the first Hispanic elected to the State Legislature from Queens.
Between January and July, Sabini out-fundraised Rosero $50,290 to $25,725. (Rosero transferred $5,000 left over from his 2001 City Council bid, bringing his total contributions to $30,725.)
But during those same months, Sabini spent $21,846.70, compared to Rosero’s $500. Sabini, who had more $13,420.49 left over from January, ended July with $41,863.79. Rosero has $30,225 on hand.
But Rosero has greater room to flex his Long Island and Washington D.C. fundraising skills under New York State’s campaign finance laws, which cap contributions for Senate primary races at $5,400. He already received $5,000 from the chairwoman of the Brookhaven Town Democratic Party on Long Island, Marsha Laufer. As a City Council candidate in 2001, Rosero raised $17,499 under NYC’s campaign finance laws. Among Rosero’s 2001 contributors is Sabini’s longtime Chief of Staff Katharine Picardo, who donated $50.
There are 64,012 registered Democrats in this district.
According to Queens College Sociology professor Andrew Beveridge, ethnic candidates are no sure bet in Flushing or Jackson Heights.
“The problem they’re going to run into [is that they] are not going to be anywhere near the majority”. Beveridge estimated that only 30 percent of voting-age Asians are citizens, and therefore not eligible to vote. With Latinos, that figure is about 40 percent, he said.
Candidates like Meng and Rosero “really need the broader support to win these seats…because you’re going to have lower registration rates,” said Beveridge. He also warned against looking at large, often heterogenous clumpings of ethnicities as a single-minded group. “Its not automatic they’ll have enough [support] within their co-ethnic group,” said Beveridge.
Jackson Heights 7th Congressional District
Although Congressman Joe Crowley is facing three opponents in his primary, none of them filed financial reports with the Federal Elections Commission (FEC).
Challengers Curtis Brooks, Dennis Coleman and Aniello Grimaldi, all from the Bronx, filed petitions to run for the seat.
Crowley raised $251, 140.29 this quarter, bringing his total to $697,302.11. That war chest and Crowley’s close ties to the Queens and Bronx Democratic Parties helped steer away what could have been his most serious challenger, Corona Councilman Hiram Monserrate, according to party insiders.
In the district, there are 57,837 registered Democrats in Queens, and 122,707 in the Bronx.
Astoria: 14th Congressional District
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney raised $116,144.41 during this quarterly filing, bringing her cash on hand total to $603,803.95. Her challenger, Manhattan-resident Robert Jereski, raised $7,641 during the same period. After paying $4,808.24 in campaign related expenses, Jereski heads into the September 14th primary with $1,273.76.
The BOE said Jereski did not have enough signatures to be on the ballot, Maloney’s office said.
In this district, there are 29,406 registered Democrats in Queens and 148,179 in Manhattan.
Jamaica: 5th Congressional District
Congressman Gregory Meeks raised only $15,600 during this quarterly filing, and has on hand $116,510.56.
But Meek’s opponent, Judge Simeon Golar, withdrew from the race after officials noted his ineligibility to seek public office while on the bench. One BOE official said Golar submitted a letter to the BOE claiming he did not formally “give permission to use his name” on the petitions submitted.
And what Meeks didn’t collect in cash, he got in cachet. Meeks was an early supporter of Democratic Presidential Candidate John Kerry, who in turn, got Meeks two speaking engagements at the Democratic National Convention. In total, he was allotted more speaking time than both New York Senators Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton. Attorney General Elliot Spitzer did not speak.
In this district, there are 216,561 registered Democrats.
Stephen Graves (R-C) v. Gonzalo Policarpio (R)
Joe Crowley (D-WF) v. Aniello Grimaldi (D) Curtis Brooks (D)
Dennis Coleman (D)
John Sabini (D-WF) v. Luis Rosero (D)
Barry Grodenchik (D-WF) v. Jimmy Meng (D-I-C) Benjamin Singer (D)
Michelle Titus (D-WF) v. Michael Duvalle (D-I)
Vivian Cook (D-WF) v. Rachel Gordon (D)
Far Rockaway: 31st Assembly District
Flushing businessman Jimmy Meng will once again challenge incumbent Barry Grodenchik for the 22nd Assembly District. Tribune photo by Ira Cohen.
In a special election two years ago, Michele Titus defeated Independence Party candidate Michael Duvalle. He is now challenging Titus in the Democratic primary.
Titus got 11,111 votes, or 86 percent of votes, compared to Duvalle’s 569 votes, or 4 percent. Duvalle raised $7,160, adding to the $6,565.59 he already banked. Titus spent $1,978.98, leaving her with $11,746.61.
No financial statements for Duvalle were filed with the State’s Board of Elections.
There are 40,622 registered Democrats in this district.
Jamaica: 32nd Assembly District
With roughly a month to go before the primary, Vivian Cook out-fundraised her challenger in this quarterly filing, $16,227.21 to $0. Challenger Rachel Gordon, who challenged Cook as an Independence Party candidate in 2002, spent $30 this filing period, diminishing her leftover warchest of $119.54 down to $89.54.
Cook, who’s been in state office since 1991, defeated Gordon in 2002 with 96 percent of the vote.
There are 46,108 Democrats in this district.
Jackson Heights: 39th Assembly District
Jose Peralta, the first Latino from Queens elected to the Assembly, raised $12,835 from individual contributors this quarter, and $39,025 from unions and political action committees. That is on top of the $30,234.37 left over from his January filing. But after nearly $30,000 in expenses this quarter, Peralta has $53,763.28 remaining.
His challenger, Humberto Suarezmotta did not file enough valid signatures from registered Democrats to qualify for the ballot. Before the BOE’s August 4th ruling, Suarezmotta did not file a campaign financial report, which were due in mid-July.
In this district there are 20,910 registered Democrats.
Bayside: 5th Congressional District
In a congressional district that goes from Spaghetti Park in the heart of Corona into the eastern edges of the Queens-Nassau County border, two Republicans are squaring off for the chance to face 20-year congressman Gary Ackerman.
The race pits Stephen Graves against Jun Policarpio.
Policarpio, a native of the Philippines and former Department of Homeland Security officer, raised $1,100 this quarterly filing, bringing his contribution total to $24,607.18. With more than $8,000 in expenses this quarter, Policarpio has less than $2,000 on hand, according to the handwritten financial information available online with the FEC.
That puts Policarpio slightly ahead of Graves, President of Bio Nutrion Research Labs, who has $1,465, all of which was raised during this quarter.
Policarpio’s platform includes provding a “tax credit to husband and wife [sic] who give housing accommodations to their elderly parents,” and strengthening Equality Opportunity laws in the work place.
But in the first item under “key issues” in Policarpio’s website, he calls Ackerman a “dormant Congressman… who has outlived his usefulness after more than 20 years in Washington…”
On Graves’ website, his first issue is “to uphold traditional marriage - between a man and a woman” because, in his opinion, “Congress should show greater respect for traditional values.” Under Foreign Affairs, Graves said, “As Congressmen [sic], I would keep the US actively engaged in many of the regions that interest communities in the 5th District, like the Middle East, Asia and South Asia.”
Some elections were already decided before any votes were cast.
Allan Jennings already lost his official post in the Queens Democratic Party as a district leader when he failed to file enough petitions to run for reelection.
Running unopposed for that position now is Charles Pringle, Jr., a former Bronx assistant district attorney with ties to Reverend Floyd Flake and the David Dinkins administration.
“Yes, goodbye,” is what Executive Assistant Michel Reich of the Queens Democratic Party was overhead saying at the BOE’s August 4th petition hearing shortly before Jenning’s removal.
Afterwards, Reich said, “Jennings has lost the trust and faith of his district.” Reich said it was too early to speculate whether Pringle, Jr. would challenge Jennings for his council seat. Reich said,
“It remains to be seen whether [Jennings] will be a council member,” referring to an ongoing probe into sexual harassment allegations.
Nester Diaz, whom the party supported against current State Committeeman Luis Jimenez, withdrew from the race after the Party learned he lived outside Queens, party sources said.