2006-06-07 / Political Page

Harrison Surprise Entry In 22nd AD, Monserrate Challenges Sabini In Senate Race

Most of the political thunder last week emanated from the Democratic and Republican state party conventions, which set the stage for top-of-the-ticket primaries in both parties.

Closer to home, at least two Democratic primaries of greater interest than usual are developing. Former Flushing legislator Julia Harrison is essaying a comeback at the age of 86, and state Senator John Sabini is being challenged by City Councilmember Hiram Monserrate, the premier Hispanic holder of a city office in the borough.

Democratic primaries are always meaningful since the party's dominance in Queens elections means the primary winner is essentially the overwhelming favorite to win the general election.

Harrison's decision to run in the 22nd Assembly District primary to fill the seat vacated by Assemblymember Jimmy Meng came as a surprise. The always outspoken exlawmaker had retired five years ago after serving in the Assembly and City Council.

Although she missed the hectic political life, she had no intention of running for Meng's seat when he unexpectedly announced several weeks ago that he was not running for re-election for health reasons.

As the prospective field of Democrats started to show itself, Harrison and her fellow members in the Democratic Club of Flushing were less than satisfied. First in was Grace Meng, the incumbent's daughter; then Ellen Young, a top staff member on Councilmember John Liu's staff, and then a third woman, Ethel Chen. The field was completed by Terrence Park of the area's Korean community. Harrison said that she and her colleagues saw it as a perfect setup for Park. Then Chen, a Part A District Leader who comes out of Harrison's club, decided to withdraw from the field and placed Harrison's name in nomination.

After several meetings of her club's executive committee and expressed reluctance to replace Chen as a candidate, Harrison finally decided to accept the nomination.

Harrison's move changed the dynamics of the race. Three East Asians-Young, Meng and Park-in the field were now joined by Harrison, who could benefit from a likely split vote among the first three.

Harrison, with her past experience as the area's representative, said she feels she has an edge in competence over the others. She and her club members also were dissatisfied with Liu's trying to control the race to have Meng be succeeded by a candidate from the East Asian community. Now, said Harrison, every group in the community is represented in the field of candidates. Harrison added that she is "happy to be back in the thick of it. I was vegetating politically since my retirement, and now I'm itching to do something politically again. I've been sitting on my hands for five years and I'm looking forward to running up to Albany for the session," she said.

The expected hotly contested race between Sabini and Monserrate also figures to be waged against the background of the district's ethnic makeup.

The 13th Senate District was redrawn after the 2000 census with the prospect of electing a Hispanic candidate. Comprised of Jackson Heights, Corona and East Elmhurst, the enclave is about 55 percent Hispanic, 20 percent Asian, 12 percent white and 9 percent black.

Sabini, an ex-City Councilmember, waged a good campaign, utilizing his high name recognition and long political involvement to defeat Luis Rosero handily.

But in Monserrate, he meets an opponent who has greater political presence than Rosero because of his almost five and a half years as the area's City Council representative.

Monserrate, 38 and an ex-police officer, is attacking Sabini as unable to deliver results for the community. The 49-year-old incumbent fought off those same charges to defeat Rosero. It figures to be an interesting contest.

MANTON ABSENT FROM CONVENTION: Queens Democratic Leader Thomas Manton was missing from the Democratic Convention in Buffalo last week, after also being absent from the organization's recent dinner and the meetings where candidates were designated.

The absences have fueled speculation that Manton may not be feeling well. Attempts to reach him at the party's Forest Hills office or at his law firm have been unsuccessful. Staff members at both locations have not been forthcoming with any information.

Manton, a former congressmember and City Councilmember, has held the Queens chairman's post for about 20 years since Donald Manes vacated the office. Manton, a Sunnyside district leader, will be up for re-election to that post on Primary Day and following that, would be up for reelection as county leader.

C O N V E N T I O N FALLOUT: With the Democratic and Republican conventions behind us, we can now look forward to the September 12 primaries.

Democratic gubernatorial designee Eliot Spitzer faces no real opposition from Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi in their expected encounter, but the party's attorney general designee, Andrew Cuomo, could face bitter primaries from one or more rivals, although he appears to be in a position to withstand the challenges and win the nomination.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton was designated by acclimation and now awaits the challenger from the Republican primary, either John Spencer or K.T. McFarland. Clinton appears to be unbeatable in November and there's strong speculation she'll use this November's expected victory as a springboard to the 2008 presidential campaign.

Among the Republicans, John Faso and William Weld appear set to provide some hot competition for their party's gubernatorial nomination, which Faso seems capable of winning.

Jeanine Pirro took her party's designation for state attorney general without incident, but would face a tough race against Cuomo or any other Democratic candidate.

MIKE'S ANTI-GUN EFFORT GROWS: Mayor Michael Bloomberg's effort to get rid of illegal guns continues to grow as 37 more cities have joined the fight to get the illegal firearms off the streets, bringing the total to 52 cities.

The multi-city coalition's aim is to toughen penalties against the worst gun dealers and to oppose federal legislation that would limit penalties for anyone caught trafficking in firearms. The group was formed in April when Bloomberg and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino brought together a group of 15 mayors to wage the antigun fight, and the group keeps growing.

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