Dems Back Dean For President; Announce Picks For Convention Delegates
Making a difficult choice, Queens Democrats are backing front-runner former Vermont Governor Howard Dean for their party’s nomination for president, choosing him from among nine presidential hopefuls battling to be the party’s standard bearer in the campaign against President George W. Bush.
The organization, led by Chairman Thomas Manton, has selected its slate of candidates to serve as delegates to the national convention this summer in Boston, but it’s likely that they’ll face opposition from other states when the Democratic presidential primaries are held on March 2 in New York state.
Borough President Helen Marshall is among those chosen to be a delegate. The list also includes Councilmembers John C. Liu (Flushing), David Weprin (Holliswood), Helen Sears (Jackson Heights), Melinda Katz (Forest Hills) and Eric Gioia (Long Island City).
Other state lawmakers on the list are state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky (Flushing) and Assemblymembers Barbara Clark and William Scarborough.
Rounding out the selections are party officials Anne Marie Anzalone of Astoria, and Lew Simon of Rockaway Park. Another Rockaway resident, Geraldine Chapey, is on the list, as is Elizabeth Crowley of Glendale.
Also running to be Dean delegates are Julissa Ferreres of Corona; Anthony Spataro of Bayside; Daniel Dromm of Jackson Heights; Thomas D. Wong of Maspeth, and David Rothstein of Flushing.
Running for alternate delegates on the regular Democratic organization slate are Howard Pollack of Forest Hills, former aide to Assemblymember Michael Cohen; Gloria Aloise, Astoria Democratic leader; and Joan Reed of Whitestone.
The list is balanced by gender, racially, ethnically and by sexual preference.
In deciding to back Dean, the Queens Dems had to bypass several longstanding party favorites such as United States Senators Joseph Lieberman and John Kerry and Congressmember Richard Gephardt. There will also be some support for General Wesley Clark, no doubt.
Dean is favored to take the first two primary tests in Iowa next Monday and in New Hampshire on January 27, although he has a very narrow lead over Clark in the latest national polls.
$ RACE FOR MAYOR: The Campaign Finance Board (CFB) tomorrow will issue the latest list of contributions reported by next year’s crop of Democratic mayoral hopefuls.
Reportedly, City Council Speaker Gifford Miller leads the pack with $2.3 million, Congressmember Anthony Weiner (Queens/Brooklyn) has collected $1.8 million; city Comptroller William Thompson has $1.5 million; Assemblymember Brian McLaughlin registers about $1 million and Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields trails with $720,000.
Former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer is close to officially entering the contest, but really hasn’t done any serious fundraising.
On the Republican side, former Councilmember Thomas Ognibene of Middle Village, who’s planning to challenge Mayor Michael Bloomberg in the Republican primary, was due to start his fundraising this past Monday. The mayor, who’s footing the bill for his campaign, is expected to spend more than the $75 million it cost him to get elected in 2001.
Miller, following the example of Dem presidential front-runner Dean, took to the internet last week and raised some $200,000 over a three-day period. His mayoral rivals can be expected to follow suit. Miller was sworn in to another two-year term last week and promised an override of the mayor’s veto of a bill to combat lead poisoning. Looking back, he praised the Council’s work in its freshman term.
LEFFLER SENTENCED: Former Councilmember Sheldon Leffler of Queens Village was sentenced last week on a campaign fraud conviction. He escaped doing time, but the conviction automatically disbars the Harvard-educated attorney.
Leffler, 61, was sentenced to five years probation, 540 hours of community service and was fined $5,000. His case arose from his campaign for Queens borough president three years ago, during which he claimed that some contributions were eligible for city matching funds. He could have received four years in prison.
KATZ BRINGS MUSIC PROGRAM BACK: Responding to complaints from concerned parents in her district, Councilmember Melinda Katz (D–Forest Hills) secured $45,000 in funding from the council to restore the Music Masters program in Community School Board, District 28.
The free program, which had been cut due to the budget deficit, is held on Saturdays and is open to fourth through eighth graders selected through auditions. Those chosen can take their instruments home and are given weekly music instruction.
Katz, whose father founded the Queens Symphony Orchestra, comes from a musical background. She stated, "An education is more than just reading and writing—music and the arts are critical parts of a balanced curriculum. I became involved in fighting for this program because I truly believe in that. The children in Music Masters will be affected by this experience for the rest of their lives."
GIOIA, LIU CRITICIZE TRAIN SHUTDOWNS: Service shutdowns on the No. 7 line on weekends for the past two months were criticized last week by Councilmembers Eric Gioia (D–Long Island City) and John Liu (D–Flushing). The elevated line runs through both their districts. They complained that there is no alternative for many of their constituents and the shutdown represents a great inconvenience.
The shutdowns, they said, are also having a bad effect on businesses in Queens along the route served by the line. Tom Finkelpearl, executive director of the Queens Museum of Art, and other community leaders joined them in denouncing the shutdowns.
Gioia and Liu called on the MTA to explain the service interruptions.