By Dustin Brown
Elizabeth Crowley pushed past two competitors to win the Democratic primary for Thomas Ognibene’s (R-Middle Village) City Council seat Sept. 25, according to an unofficial tally by the Associated Press.
Her victory set the stage for a tight race against thepopular incumbent’s chief of staff, Republican candidate Dennis Gallagher.
“My hard work and dedication to winning the primary has paid off,” Crowley said Monday afternoon. “I am delighted that they came out and voted for me, and I still know that I have a big fight ahead of me for the general election.”
After defeating Robert Cermeli and Linda Sansivieri in the primary, Crowley will face Gallagher, who has served as Ognibene’s chief of staff for 10 years, in the general election Nov. 6. Ognibene is barred from seek reelection by the new term limits law.
Crowley garnered 46 percent of the vote, compared to 32 percent for Sansivieri and 22 percent for Cermeli, based on the preliminary count made by AP.
Council District 30 covers Middle Village, Glendale and Ridgewood, in addition to parts of Richmond Hill, Woodhaven and Forest Hills, where candidates identified the most pressing concerns as education, community policing and senior citizen issues.
Crowley’s campaign benefited early on from strong support generated by her family’s extensive political history, including her father’s service on the City Council and the career of her cousin, U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights). A restorative painter, she also attracted extensive labor support from her membership in the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades.
However, Crowley was also the last to receive her matching funds from the Campaign Finance Board, giving her less money to spend than her two rivals until a week before the primary.
Cermeli, who serves on School Board 24 and has built a 20-year career as a capital budget analyst for numerous city agencies, founded his campaign on the issue of fiscal responsibility in the city government, which he said his professional experience gave him a unique ability to address.
Sansivieri, a preschool teacher and School Board 24 member who has lived in the community for more than 26 years, waged what she described as a grass-roots campaign. She worked as the staff director for Assemblyman Frederick Schmidt’s Middle Village district office in the 1980s, a position she said gave her “hands-on experience with the problems of this district.”
Incumbent Ognibene, the council minority leader, has enjoyed extensive support in the heavily Democratic district, into which he brought a steady stream of funding for such items as park improvements and police equipment.
Ognibene said it was critical for the voters to base their primary choice on “who they think has the maturity and the leadership to fight for the community at City Hall.”
The incumbent has thrown his own support behind longtime staffer Gallagher, whom he said “has those credentials because he’s worked for me for the past 10 years and he understands city government.”
Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.