Incumbents Reign Queens packs ’em in for Election Day showdown
Voters line up inside a school to cast their ballots on Election Day.
By Aaron Rutkoff,Azi Paybarah, Liz Goff,Jack Buehrer and Raynelle Cerica Bull
At the end of a heated election season in which the absence of hotly contested local races was sufficiently compensated by a passionate and divisive presidential campaign, voters in Queens can look back at a Nov. 2 that brought both success and failure.
While every Queens incumbent for local, statewide and Congressional races was sent back to work, U.S. Sen. John Kerry, who challenged President George W. Bush for the nation’s top job, earned the nod from Queens and state voters but fell short of winning the hearts and votes of the rest of the country.
Kerry carried New York State by more than a million votes, according to unofficial results — and anecdotal evidence from interviews conducted across the borough show that Kerry captured the majority vote in Queens as well. But the national majority simply did not agree.
By midday Wednesday Kerry appeared on television screens around the country, conceding defeat to Bush after it became clear that the pivotal state of Ohio would remain out of reach.
In a borough dominated by Democrats, Kerry had no shortage of supporters among the elected officials of Queens. None had more to gain by a Kerry victory, however, than U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica), who served as co-chairman of the campaign. With no challenger for his congressional seat, Meeks dispatched his staff to campaign for Kerry in battleground states.
Mike McKay, a Meeks spokesman, sounded a note of disappointment and expected “more of the same, if not worse” for Queens under the next Bush term. “New York is certainly not a pro-Bush state,” he said, “and I can’t see how the Bush policies that haven’t helped us up to now will help us over the next four years.”
Passion At The Polls
Voters waiting on line at poll locations in Western Queens expressed a variety of sentiments about the presidential candidates as they waited to cast their votes.
Diane Castillo, 43, of Long Island City said she was voting for Kerry “because I have two sons who Bush is going to send to war.”
Bill Almondovar, 31, said he would vote for Kerry. “I can’t believe the Bush family,” he said. “It’s like war is a family tradition. Worry about jobs and the economy first, then go and get Saddam to avenge your father.”
Susan Fuchs, 49, said she was casting her vote for President Bush in order to keep the country stable during a time of war. “I think we need to vote to re-elect the president because the way things are we can’t afford to rock the boat,” she said.
Voters at PS 101 in Forest Hills were still streaming in and out of the voting booths in the school’s gymnasium at 1 p.m. on Election Day.
Election officials at the school said while it was still busy in the early afternoon hours, the heaviest traffic occurred in the morning.
Although the polls opened at 6 a.m. for IS 238 in Hollis, there was already a long line formed outside the building at 5:45 a.m. As voters exited the election booths more filed in, and many of them were confident that Kerry was going to steal the election.
“It’s going to be Kerry without a doubt,” said voter Julien Amy. The diverse crowd of voters around her was filled with teenagers going to vote before school and work and the elderly being escorted by their grandchildren or caregivers.
According to one longtime poll worker at IS 238, there was a record turnout of young voters this year, more than he has seen in the past.
Astoria Dems Look To The Nation
Although Republicans fielded two challengers against Astoria lawmakers, there seemed little apprehension by Democrats there who greeted voters at the Ditmars Boulevard train station at 11 a.m. on Election Day.
U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney said her staff was more focused on races across the country rather than the one in her district. “My staffers are helping all over the country: I’ve got one in Florida, one in Georgia, one in New Hampshire, one in Texas,” she said. “I feel good. Everyone says they’re voting for me.”
Unofficial results seemed to confirm Maloney’s assertion: she defeated her Republican opponent, Anton Srdanovic, by a five-to-one margin, according to the Board of Elections.
Joining Maloney for the meet and greet were two other Astoria Democrats: state Sen. George Onorato and state Assemblyman Michael Gianaris.
Onorato, who was number 99 when he voted at 9 a.m. at PS 2 in Jackson Heights, said, “People got out early and it’s been a steady stream all day.” Onorato fended off his challenger, Danniel Maio, by a four-to-one margin, according to unofficial results from the BOE.
Gianaris, who faced no opponent, was more optimistic about voter turnout — though the national outcome proved his hopes wrong. “High turnout favors John Kerry,” he said at midday. “When more people vote, Democrats win.”
Ready For Voters (Mostly)
As for accommodating the record number of voters, Gianaris said gave the city moderate praise. The long lines, he said, were “a positive sign. People are anxious [to vote] but I think we can always do a better job.” Overall though, he said, “Given the amount of voters, I haven’t heard of too many problems.”
Speaker Gifford Miller and Senate Minority Leader David Patterson said there were some problems—300 of them.
Soon after the elections, the two Democrats released a scathing document that they called “Report on NYC Board of Elections Failures on Election Day.” According to a City Council spokesperson, 300 calls went unreturned by the bi-partisan BOE, which is headed by Republican John Ravitz.
When asked how the Council knew how many calls went unreturned, spokesperson Paul Rose said, “Because the city council made those calls.” He added that the BOE’s website was inoperable for most of Election Day.
A spokesperson for the BOE was not available for comment.
In another voting breakdown, long lines at one polling site in Long Island City forced election workers to turn away voters at a handicapped access entrance. Security guards and poll workers at the Newcomers School advised several disabled voters that there were long delays and said they “might want” to consider returning later in the day.
Queens voters saw more blue than red at the polls on Election Day — and not just because of the “blue state” categorization of New York State, which gave a huge majority of support to Senator John Kerry.
City cops were on patrol at the polls — mostly located at public schools — in increased numbers this year, checking strategic locations inside the buildings and performing vertical patrols in staircases, law enforcement officials said. School teachers and supervisors, who remained at work on Election Day, were advised that there would be a single entry to each school that hosted a poll site.
There could be no precautions for the odd situation that developed at one Richmond Hill poll site, however, when embattled Councilman Allan Jennings drew the ire of the poll workers.
Though the Jamaica Councilman was not on the ballot this time around, Jennings and a group of his staffers took to the streets around P.S. 62 early in the morning to greet voters and hand out flyers. At a certain point in the morning, after one member of Jennings staff began photographing voters, the poll supervisor asked Jennings to leave.
Details of the incident remain disputed, however it seems clear that law enforcement officials were contacted. A staff member for Jennings called the situation a misunderstanding.
Unofficial President Results
John Kerry (Dem.) 393,482
George Bush (Rep.) 155,363
Unofficial Local Results
(NYC Board of Elections)
Charles Schumer (Dem.) 4,386,612
Howard Mills (Rep.) 1,525,536
Marilyn O’Grady (Con.) 210,851
Gary Ackerman (Dem./Ind./WF) 74,200
Stephen Graves (Rep./Con.) 25,584
Gonzalo Policarpio (Fair Immigration) 990
Gregory Meeks (Dem) Unopposed
Joseph Crowley (Dem./WF) 93,522
Joseph Cinquemani (Rep./Con.) 23,045
Anthony Weiner (Dem./WF) 102,582
Gerard Cronin (Rep./Ind./Con.) 43,414
Nydia Velazquez (Dem./WF) 97,242
Paul Rodriguez (Rep./Con.) 17,102
Carolyn Maloney (Dem./Ind./WF) 162,107
Anton Srdanovic (Rep./Con.) 37,682
12th State Senate
George Onorato (Dem.) 44,310
Daniel Maio (Rep.) 10,444
Jimmy Meng (Dem./Ind./Con.) 13,430
Meilin Tan (Rep.) 3,836
Barry Grodenchik (WF) 1,706
Evergreen Chou (Green/No To War) 323
Ann Margaret Carrozza (Dem./Ind./WF) 24,780
Peter Boudouvas (Rep./Con.) 13,821
Michael Cohen (Dem./Ind.) 20,833
Michael Weiss (Rep.) 9,222
Michele Titus (Dem./WF) 19,395
Michael Duvalle (Ind.) 434
Vivian Cook (Dem./WF) 23,274
Jereline Hunter (Rep./Con.) 1,107
Jose Peralta (Dem./WF) 11,763
Giash Ahmed (Rep.) 2,212