Filing Of Nominating Petitions For Primary Starts Tomorrow; Some Interesting Races Seen
Tomorrow is "put up or shut up" time, the day for filing nominating petitions with the Board of Elections, a major step toward running in the September 12 primary and beyond that in the November general elections.
Although the stakes are higher on the statewide level, it's expected there will be more intensive action in several state legislative contests for seats in Queens. However, there's also the possibility that even if these local hopefuls have enough signatures to get on the primary ballot, they may not survive challenges to those petitions, so their hopes of running could end in a court fight.
On the statewide scene, there is some action on the Democratic side, but candidates on the party-endorsed slate are seen as having easy contests. Gubernatorial frontrunner Eliot Spitzer is expected to have no problems with challenger Thomas Suozzi. Andrew Cuomo is in a similar position regarding possible opponents Mark Green, Charlie King and Sean Patrick Maloney in the state attorney general race, if, that is, Cuomo's foes have the required signatures to get on the ballot.
On the Republican side, former Yonkers Mayor John Spencer and Kathleen (KT) McFarland are expected to file petitions to set up a primary contest.
According to indications leading up to tomorrow's petition filings, there are three possible Democratic scraps that could provide interesting primary contests:
+City Councilmember Hiram Monserrate (D-Corona) has hopes of taking the heavily Hispanic Jackson Heights-Elmhurst senate seat away from incumbent Senator John Sabini.
+In one of two vacated Assembly seats in Flushing, attorney Rory Lancman, the organization's choice, faces opposition from Morshed Alam and John Dorsa in the 25th Assembly District where incumbent Assemblymember Brian McLaughlin is retiring at the end of the year.
+In the 22nd AD, where Assemblymember Jimmy Meng is surrendering his seat for health reasons, there's a possible four-way battle to replace him. Announced hopefuls are former local legislator Julia Harrison, seeking to make a comeback at the age of 86; attorney Grace Meng, the incumbent's daughter; Ellen Young, a top aide of Councilmember John Liu, one of the most powerful pols in the district, and Terrence Park, the only male candidate seeking the nomination.
In each of these three possible contests, winning the Democratic nomination is tantamount to winning the general election because all are heavily Democratic districts. Also, the regular Democratic organization's endorsements of Sabini, Lancman and Young gives this trio a substantial advantage.
GIANT KILLER HOPEFUL: Among the horde of would-be candidates expected to file petitions tomorrow is a first-time Democratic candidate seeking to challenge state Senator Frank Padavan (R-C, Bellerose) in the general election.
Taking on the powerful 34-year veteran lawmaker is Nora Marino, an attorney from Little Neck. Marino stated in announcing her candidacy that she has served as an officer for the Judge Advocate General in the U.S. Army Reserve and has done considerable pro bono legal work for American soldiers.
In announcing yesterday that she was challenging Padavan, Marino stated, "With Albany dysfunction mandating reform, the long Republican reign in New York State has fought against government accountability and reform." Marino did not attack Padavan directly.
VALLONE WINS ONE: Earlier this year, Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria), Public Safety Committee chairman, called for the replacement of floor-to-ceiling subway turnstiles called HEETS with emergency exit gates because the latter provided a faster exit for subway patrons.
Last week, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) approved a $3.79 million contract for the installation of 1,450 stainless steel emergency exit gates.
An MTA spokesman said the move was part of an ongoing security system to ensure the safety of subway customers and MTA employees.
When the "panic bar" on the emergency exit gate is pushed and the door opens, a screeching alarm sounds for about a second, alerting the nearest token booth clerk.
In contrast, the existing HEETS require a subway patron to call a token clerk to unlock a gate to make the floorto ceiling exit operational, taking much more time to open than the soon-to-be installed emergency exit gates.
RIIS PK STILL IN SORRY STATE: Riis Park, the Rockaway Beach recreational facility which became part of the Gateway National Recreation Area almost 35 years ago, is still awaiting an overhaul started in the early 1990s. Its once-famous Art Deco bathhouse is still largely unused and handball and tennis courts are unusable.
Disgusted with the inaction on the Riis project, Councilmember Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D-Ozone Park) commented recently: "Yellowstone National Park has national prominence that Jacob Riis doesn't have, so funding doesn't go to Jacob Riis Park.
Yet Congressmember Anthony Weiner announced three new renovation projects in the Gateway facility last week: $1.5 million for a bike, rollerblading and walking path; $3.3 million for renovation of the Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center, and $13 million for a wetlands restoration project to save a marsh island's ecosystem.
"Just because visitors come to Gateway in buses and not Winnebagos doesn't make it any less important," said Weiner (D-Queens/Brooklyn). He said the improvements will keep the Gateway renaissance moving.
HILLARY'S MINIMUM WAGE PLAN: The Republican-controlled house has approved a $3,300 annual pay raise for federal lawmakers. Democrats in the Senate said they won't approve it, but will back Senator Hillary Clinton's plan calling for a hike in the minimum wage at the same time lawmakers' wages are increased.
While House and Senate wages would go up to $168,500 a year under the House vote, the minimum wage would remain $5.15 an hour, the same as it's been since 1997. Meanwhile congressional wages have increased by $31,700 since that time.
WEPRIN CRACKDOWN: Responding to a sharp upsurge in complaints about aggressive collection agencies, Councilmember David Weprin (D-Hollis) said he will introduce legislation which will increase the criminal and civil penalties for debt collection agencies that harass consumers and engage pursuing fraudulent claims against innocent people.
Weprin's bill will triple the penalties for the abusive tactics from the present $700-to-$1,000 penalty. The bill would also enhance the city's authority to revoke licenses.