By Adam Kramer
Democratic City Councilwoman Helen Marshall (D-East Elmhurst) won the right to face Republican City Councilman Alfonso Stabile (R-Ozone Park) in the race to replace longtime Queens Borough President Claire Shulman, according to preliminary returns.
The two longtime Queens politicians will meet in the Nov. 6 general election.
Marshall, the first black candidate in to run for boroughwide office, defeated her two opponents – former board of Education President Carol Gresser and City Councilman Sheldon Leffler (D-Hollis) – in what many thought was a hotly contested race.
According to the preliminary figures reported by New York 1, Marshall ran away with the contest, grabbing 51 percent of the vote., Gresser, a Douglaston resident, received 34 percent of the vote and Leffler, an independent Democrat who often bucked the Queens political machine, finished a distant third with 15 percent of the vote.
Evans Smith, who voted at PS 50 in Jamaica, said he had a lot of trouble figuring out who the candidates for borough president were.
“I was completely ignorant,” Smith said of the candidates. “I never even heard of them.”
He said he has always liked having Shulman in office because she is “like a mother” to Queens.
Springfield Gardens resident Bill Sawyer said he voted for Helen Marshall for borough president because she was recommended by friends “as someone who does a good job.”
He said it was a positive development to have Marshall elected as first black elected to a boroughwide post.
The Board of Elections will not announce the official results until Friday when the board will count all of the votes cast in the city's voting machines and the paper ballots.
Due to the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Centers, which affected its computers, the Board of Elections was not able provide any preliminary results of the election.
Even though the three borough president candidates came from different sections of the borough, they stumped on similar issues throughout their campaign.
Each of the candidates traveled the many diverse communities of Queens in the effort to succeed Shulman. They concentrated their efforts on how they would improve the educational system, build affordable housing, improve the overtaxed transportation system, develop the borough's economic base and provide more community policing.
Shulman, who stepped into the post of acting borough president on March 12, 1986 after Donald Manes committed suicide in the midst of a Parking Violations Bureau scandal, cannot seek re-election due to term limits.
She was elected to the post by a unanimous vote of the Queens city council delegation. Later that year Queens voters elected her to a three-year term, which was followed by a second term in 1989, a third in 1993 and her fourth and final term in 1998.
Marshall, is an early childhood educator by trade who was born in the Bronx and moved to Queens after she got married. She has represented District 21, which covers Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, parts of Flushing and Corona for the last 10 years.
Before serving on the council, she was in the state Assembly for nine years. On the Council she is the chair of the Higher Education Committee, which she started.
Gresser was the borough president's appointee to the Board of Education from 1990 to 1998 and for a period served as its president.
The only candidate with citywide recognition, she made a name for herself when she stood up the Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and opposed his appointment of former Schools Chancellor Rudy Crew.
Leffler, a Harvard-educated lawyer, was born and raised in Jamaica. He has led Council District 23, which stretches from Glen Oaks to Hollis and from Queens Village to Little Neck, for the past 23 years.
He made a name for himself on the City Council as the chairman of the Public Safety Committee, where he pushed for more community policing, trigger locks on guns and improving police response time to crimes.
Reach reporter Adam Kramer by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 157.