Candidate List Swells For Council Races
By Brian M. Rafferty
The races to fill vacant City Council spots in Queens have gotten considerably hotter since the last Campaign Finance Board filing in March, and the numbers show that certain parts of Queens are in for a battle royale come time for this September’s primary.
The most competitive race in the borough is the seat currently held by John Liu (D-Flushing), who is turning away from re-election in order to seek the City Comptroller seat. As of the May 15 filing, nine Democrats and a Republican have signed on to the race, with Yen Chou leading the way in fund-raising with $164,205.
In the 19th District, where Tony Avella (D-Bayside) is running for mayor, seven have joined the race, including the local Community Board chairman, a handful of Democratic regulars and a named legacy from the other side of the borough. Paul Vallone, brother to a sitting councilman and son of the former Council Speaker, leads the fund-raising with $97,168.
In the 24th District, Jim Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) has just started fund-raising, but his decision to seek re-election has virtually eliminated his Democratic challengers, Martha Taylor and Mike Simanowitz, who though technically still on file with the CFB, have said they intend to drop from the race.
One of the most interesting races deals with some substantial challenges to an incumbent seeking re-election. Helen Sears (D-Jackson Heights) is seeking a third term, but she (having raised $119,623) is being hotly challenged by gay activist Danny Dromm ($81,087), another community activist Alfonso Quiroz ($67,686) and South Asian business leader Stanley Kalathara ($67,952).
Another wide open race is brewing in Forest Hills, where Melinda Katz is also seeking the Comptroller spot, and a slew of talented candidates have begun to jockey for position. Lynn Schulman ($62,570) is leading the campaign finance filing, but is not too far ahead from Heidi Chain ($54,562), former Assemblyman Mike Cohen ($40,300), Mel Gagarin ($13,808), former Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz ($23,550) and JR Nocerino ($3,515).
A rematch is brewing in South Queens, where Eric Ulrich (R-Howard Beach), who to date has raised $400, is seeking to defend his seat against well-armed opponent Frank Gulluscio, who has raised $15,482. This battle is expected to boil over, as the Mayor has promised his support to Ulrich’s campaign – part of a deal cut to get the Queens GOP to back the mayor’s re-election bid.
Speaking of that deal, Tom Ognibene, who was replaced in the Council after term limits in 2001 by Dennis Gallagher, has announced he will seek to get the seat back from Liz Crowley (D-Glendale), who ousted Anthony Como in the second of two elections for the district last year. Crowley has raised $39,035, but will need to raise a lot more – the GOP wants the seat back.
The petitioning period begins in a few weeks, and by that time the list of candidates will likely swell some more, only to be chopped down in the petition challenges to follow. The race is on.