Comrie ahead in close contest for Spigner’s seat

By Betsy Scheinbart

Leroy Comrie had a slight lead over Helen Cooper-Gregory in the highly competitive race to succeed City Councilman Archie Spigner (D-St. Albans), according to partial returns on the Democratic primary reported by New York 1 Wednesday.

Allan Jennings led the bid for Councilman Thomas White’s (D-Jamaica) seat in another southeast Queens Democratic contest, but Anthony Andrews was not far behind, NY 1’s preliminary results showed.

In Queens’ most crowded council race, Democrat James Sanders appeared headed to the general election in his move for City Councilwoman Juanita Watkins’ (D-Laurelton) seat.

Voter turnout in southeast Queens Tuesday was relatively low, but not much lower than two weeks earlier, when the election was halted at 11 a.m. after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

Comrie, Spigner’s district manager and the Queen Democratic Party’s choice to succeed him, had 29 percent of the vote, while Cooper-Gregory had 28 percent, according to NY 1.

The other Democratic candidates for Council District 27 — Erica Ford, Stephen Jackson, Saundra Pope and Larry Smith — trailed far behind.

The winner of the Democratic primary will face Republican Ishmael Morgan and Independence Party candidate Cynthia Jenkins in the general election Nov. 6.

The southeast Queens district is based in St. Albans and stretches from part of Queens Village into Springfield Gardens.

Jennings had 37 percent of the vote in Council District 28, White’s seat, while Andrews, the councilman’s former chief of staff, had 30 percent. Indo-Guyanese immigrant Trevor Rupnarain pulled in 16 percent and newcomer Imam Aziz Bilal had 12 percent. Garth Marchant was in last place with 5 percent, according to NY 1.

The victor in that contest will face Working Party candidate Patrick Jenkins in the general election.

The 28th City Council District is divided physically and ethnically by the Van Wyck Expressway, which separates Richmond Hill from Jamaica and Rochdale Village.

Sanders took the lead in Council District 31, with 29 percent of the vote. James Blake got more than half that. The other six Democrats, Amanda Clarke, the Rev. Henrietta Fullard, David Hooks, Carol Howell, Charlotte Jefferson and Edward Lewis, shared the remaining votes, according to NY 1.

The district covers a large swath of southeast Queens stretching from Laurelton and Rosedale to Far Rockaway.

If Sanders wins the primary, he will face Republican Everly Brown, Independence Party candidate Rosalind O’Neal, Liberal Party contender Edward Lewis and Green Party nominee Francisco Pena in the general election.

If he does not win the Democratic nod, he will run on the Working Party line Nov. 6.

Despite optimistic statements from many of the city council candidates and their campaign workers about turnout, poll workers said it was generally lower than primary elections in the past and less than or equal to turnout during the beginning of the aborted election two weeks ago.

Voters and poll workers cited the events of Sept. 11 and the rain as contributing to low voter turnout.

“I think a lot of people don’t know there is a primary going on,” said Brian Smith, who voted in Jamaica.

Geraldine James, poll coordinator at PS 36 in St. Albans, said the school was “quite busy” with voters coming in all morning to vote in Council District 27. The turnout was about equivalent to two weeks ago, James said.

A steady stream of voters trickled into PS 50 in Jamaica to vote in Council District 28.

Across the street from Rochdale Village, a major polling spot for Council District 28, poll worker Madeline Pickett said it was hard to tell if the weather had affected voter turnout.

At Springfield Gardens High School, poll coordinator Janice Williams said turnout was actually better Tuesday than on Sept. 11th.

“This is usually a heavy voting school, but it is not that heavy today,” Williams said.

Most people said their votes had not changed from Sept. 11 to Tuesday and were not affected by the terrorist attacks.

“I already decided two weeks ago,” said Bill Sawyer, who voted at PS 156.

The election is unique this year not only because of the terrorist attack, but because all 14 Queens council members and Borough President Claire Shulman are barred from running for re-election due to term limits.

The Board of Elections will not begin counting the results of Tuesday’s election until Friday due to complications from the World Trade Center attack, but NY 1 provided preliminary results.

Reach reporter Betsy Scheinbart by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300 Ext. 138.

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