Democrats tap Smith for state senate

By Bryan Schwartzman

At last Thursday's meeting where the outcome was never really in doubt, the Queens Democratic organization nominated Malcolm Smith to represent the party in the March 28 special election for the 10th state Senate District, which stretches from Cambria Heights to the Rockaways.

Smith was chosen at the meeting, which took place at Democratic County headquarters in Forest Hills, by the 16 Democratic district leaders who comprise the 10th SD. The seat was vacated by Alton Waldon in early January, when he was sworn in as a state judge.

Smith received the vote of all but two of the delegates present.

“My campaign is now off and running,” Smith said following his nomination. “I am ready to start working on behalf of our communities.”

Two of the four candidates who sought the nomination, Andrew Jenkins and Cynthia Jenkins, who are unrelated, said the outcome was determined prior to the meeting.

“This was pretty cut and dry,” said Andrew Jenkins, a former state senator who is trying to reclaim his seat and is backed by the Liberal Party. “They don't call one of these meetings until they know the outcome.”

Andrew Jenkins, who held the seat for 12 years, was convicted in 1990 of taking $150,000 from a man he thought was a financier and promising to launder the money through a bank Andrew Jenkins owned in Zaire. He was removed from office under the Public Officers Law in 1991, said Bill Reynolds, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Marty Connor (D-Manhattan).

Once a convicted felon has served out his time and is no longer on parole, he can regain full rights as citizens and can run for office, said a spokeswoman for the state Board of Elections. Reynolds said Jenkins is eligible to run for public office.

Former Assemblywoman Cynthia Jenkins, who declared her candidacy for the office in early January, told County Chairman Thomas Manton before the meeting that she planned to beat the Democratic nominee in the general election. Cynthia Jenkins said she is backed by the Independence Party and is running as an independent Democrat.

The movers and shakers of the Queens Democrats met informally for 45 minutes before Manton officially called the meeting to order. Councilman Archie Spigner (D-St. Albans), who is also a district leader, rose and offered Smith's name for the nomination.

Smith, who is a member of Spigner's Guy R. Brewer Democratic Club, is also a trustee at the Allen AME Cathedral.

Cynthia Jenkins, who is district leader in the 29th Assembly District, countered by recommending herself for the nomination. She got a quick second from Allen Jennings, who said he supported Smith but said Cynthia Jenkins should be in the running because the process should be open.

Cynthia Jenkins said she considers herself a party maverick and the party often tried to unseat her while she served in the Assembly from 1982 to 1994.

She said Smith will be controlled by the party leadership while she would be beholden solely to the community.

Jennings also tried to nominate Andrew Jenkins, but was barred from doing so since he had already seconded Cynthia Jenkins' nomination. Jennings has run for office many times and most recently tried to unseat incumbent Thomas White in the 28th City Council district.

As a result, Andrew Jenkins was never formally recommended for the senate seat.

The fourth possible candidate, Henry McCoy, head of the United For Progress Democratic Club, announced in January he was seeking the party's nomination but he was not even mentioned for consideration at the meeting. As a district leader, he had the option of nominating himself, but chose not to do so.

“Without the backing of the party I have no chance in the special election,” McCoy said after the meeting.

Whoever wins the March special election will have to run again in November in the general election. McCoy said he may make a run at that time.