2002-06-19 / Political Page

Court Glitch Delays Start Of Petitioning, Puts Campaigns On Hold

By John Toscano

Court Glitch Delays Start Of
Petitioning, Puts Campaigns On Hold

Yesterday was supposed to be the start of this year’s election campaigns, the day to start circulating nominating petitions and getting signatures to place a candidate’s name on the ballot.

The United States Department of Justice, which must approve the new districts that were created, approved the state legislative lines but not the Congressional lines, and a federal court blocked the start of petitioning. Thousands of would-be candidates were forced to put their campaign plans on hold.

Otherwise, there are ample signs that the election season is ready to bust out all over as candidates’ nights, fundraisers and rallies are going on throughout the borough. The incipient start of the elections also reflects the growing participation of many ethnic groups, encouraged by the creation of new state legislative seats, which might insure the election of some new faces from the new groups getting involved this year.

However, a pair of well-known local pols—state Senator Toby Stavisky (D–Flushing) and former Councilmember Julia Harrison, longtime Flushing politician—are likely to provide one of the most interesting primaries as they vie for the Democratic nomination in the newly configured 6th Senate district covering the greater Flushing area.

The Harrison–Stavisky rivalry goes back to the mid 1980s when the late Leonard Stavisky was in office and Harrison and Mrs. Toby Stavisky squared off in election battles which were won by Harrison. Harrison, who lost her Council seat last year by virtue of term limits, indicated she really means business in challenging Stavisky for the Senate seat by forming a full slate including the local Assembly seat and party positions.

But Stavisky will not be without strong support as she attempts to win re-election to the seat she took over following her husband’s death in 1999. She is the Democratic-endorsed candidate for the post and she will no doubt be supported by the local regular organization.

Stavisky and Harrison are set to square off in their first campaign confrontation next Tuesday evening, June 25, at a candidates night held by the Flushing Forum for the Development of Political Leaders. A third candidate seeking the seat, Marcia Linn of Forest Hills, has also been invited to attend. It will be held at the Macedonia African Methodist Episcopal Church, 37-22 Union St., next to the Flushing municipal parking lot.

In one of her latest blasts at Stavisky, Harrison said she didn’t approve of a wife succeeding a husband who has passed away. Stavisky fired back that Harrison makes outrageous statements to try to cover up past failures as a lawmaker.

TOUGH RACE FOR NEW CORONA–JACKSON HEIGHTS SEAT: What appears to be another hotly contested race is shaping up in the new 39th Assembly District covering Corona, Jackson Heights, Elmhurst and East Elmhurst. It was created as a Hispanic district and so far four Hispanics have declared for the Democratic nomination—Jose Peralta, a labor union official, Francisco Moya, the local Democratic leader, William Salgado and Haydee Zambrana, both activists.

The winner of the primary would surely be the winner of the general election and become the first Hispanic from Queens in the Assembly.

Peralta and Moya would appear to be the frontrunners. Peralta is an official of the powerful million-member New York City Central Labor Council and has the announced support of its president, Assemblymember Brian McLaughlin (D–Flushing). He’s also endorsed by an Assemblymember and two Councilmembers from other boroughs and the New York Dominican Officers Association.

Moya, a hospital official, must be considered to have meaningful support since he won a district leader’s post.

Of the others, Salgado has run for office in the past and lost and Zambrana has tested the waters previously but hasn’t run before.

In the wake of the reconfiguration of the Corona/Jackson Heights/East Elmhurst areas to create the Hispanic district (39th AD), other long-established districts were changed significantly. Changes to the 34th AD resulted in a new Democratic leadership district, the 34th AD, Part B. Seeking to become co-leaders are Michael Den Dekker and Ellen Raffaele, both from Jackson Heights. Both were early candidates for the City Council last year, and both eventually dropped out.

Raffaele had served for several years as head of then-Councilmember John Sabini’s district office, Den Decker served in the same capacity for Assemblymember Margaret Markey (D–Maspeth). He has an extensive resume which lists participation in many local community, civic, church, business and senior organizations. The 40-year-old candidate hopeful has a fundraiser planned this Friday evening, June 21, from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 79-05 31st Ave., Jackson Heights.

INTERESTING RACE: A very interesting race is also shaping up in the new so-called Hispanic state Senate seat—the 13th District—which includes the previously mentioned 39th AD. Four candidates competing for the Democratic nomination have emerged—two Hispanics, Charles Castro and Nestor Diaz, and two non-Hispanics, former Councilmember John Sabini and Rudy Greco.

Sabini, a long time community activist and Democratic leader who spent close to a decade in the Council as the Jackson Heights representative, would ordinarily be expected to have an edge in name recognition and regular Democratic support. But the new Senate district has a vastly different population than the area in which Sabini molded his career. According to one report, the district contains 55 percent Hispanics, 20 percent Asians, 10 percent blacks and about 15 percent whites.

This being a primary, which generally does not draw many voters, the question becomes: can Sabini pull enough votes from his constituency, minus the votes that Greco, a tough campaigner, might siphon off? Or will the emerging Hispanic political power bring out a strong primary vote? The latter possibility affects mostly Castro, who is chief of staff to Councilmember Hiram Monserrate, the Corona Democratic leader who became the first Hispanic from the borough elected to the Council last year. Castro and Monserrate will have to offset Diaz vote-getting abilities. Overall it’s a very interesting contest.

ASIAN CANDIDATE FOR ASSEMBLY IN R.H.: We reported two weeks ago that Assemblymember Brian McLaughlin (D), whose 25th AD now stretches from Flushing to Richmond Hill, was supporting Uma Sen Gupta, a South Asian native, for Democratic district leader in Part B of the 25th AD. There is a large South Asian community in Richmond Hill, split between the 25th and 31st ADs, and Dr. Taj Rajkumar, an ethnic Indian and native of Guyana, a country on the north shore of South America, has announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination in the 31st AD, which is also heavily black.

Rajkumar, who came to the United States over 20 years ago and earned a doctorate on the subject of poverty at Louisiana State University, is currently a professor at Borough of Manhattan Community College. His main issue is education, he says, but he’s also interested in aid for immigrants, preventive health care and senior citizen issues.

Rajkumar will be facing a fairly new incumbent, Michelle Titus, who won a special election early this year to replace the late Pauline Cummings in the Assembly.


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