By Betsy Scheinbart
The races to replace City Council members Archie Spigner (D-St. Albans) and Juanita Watkins (D-Laurelton) remained crowded heading into the general election Nov. 6, when the victors of the Democratic primary will be joined by Republicans and several third-party candidates.
Spigner, who has been in the Council since 1974, and Watkins, whose tenure began in 1992, were barred from re-election due to term limits.
In the race for Spigner’s seat, Democratic nominee Leroy Comrie faces Republican Ishmael Morgan, Independence Party candidate Cynthia Jenkins and independent candidate Rev. Ed Mc Kay, who has no official party affiliation.
All four candidates said that improving the quality of education was a top priority for the southeast Queens district, which stretches from part of Queens Village, through St. Albans and Jamaica, south into parts of Springfield Gardens and Rosedale.
Comrie served as the councilman’s chief aide for 18 years and spent time as the president of Community School Board 29, where he is currently a board member. He defeated four candidates in the Democratic primary Sept. 25.
Morgan is the manager of an Off-Track Betting branch, a member of Neighborhood Advisory Board No. 12 and president of the Foundation for Recovery and Economic Encouragement. He ran unsuccessfully for the same council seat in 1997.
Jenkins is a former state Assembly member from Jamaica and founder of the Social Concern Committee of Springfield Gardens, an educational action program. She was knocked off the Democratic line during the petitioning process but remained on the ballot under the Independence Party.
Mc Kay fought to get back on the ballot after he was removed during the petitioning process. He is now on the ballot as an independent candidate with the unofficial Harmony Party. Part of Mc Kay’s outreach to the community includes a prison ministry that promotes writing letters to candidates.
The race for Watkins’ seat remained one of the most jammed contests in the borough with five candidates participating in the general election.
James Sanders defeated seven candidates to win the largest Democratic primary in Queens Sept. 25. He faces four others in the general election: Republican Everly Brown, Independence Party candidate Rosalind O’Neal, Green Party contender Francisco Pena and Liberal Party nominee Edward Lewis, who also ran in the Democratic primary.
The candidates for the 31st Council District cited improving test scores and reducing school crowding as among their top priorities.
Many of the candidates in the district, which covers a large swath of southeast Queens from Laurelton and Rosedale to Far Rockaway, have backgrounds in education.
Sanders, the vice president of School Board 27, works for a transition-from-welfare program called Forward Motion. He was assistant district manager for former U.S. Rep. Floyd Flake. He said improving transportation in the district was one of his priorities.
Brown is a developer, investor and a financial consultant who ran for the same City Council seat in 1997 and ran for the Assembly in 1994. He lost both races. Brown said he is specifically concerned about security and safety in the school system.
O’Neal is a teacher at Springfield Gardens High School and a United Federation of Teachers delegate. In addition to education, O’Neal mentioned eliminating toxic waste sites as one of her priorities for the district.
Pena is a an educator who practiced law in his native country, the Dominican Republic. He is now a U.S. citizen and treasurer of the All Nations Lions Club. Pena said education and the negligence of some city agencies were among the issues important to him.
Lewis is an assistant commissioner with the city Department of Parks and Recreation who served as the city director of African- American and Caribbean affairs for former Mayor David Dinkins. Lewis mentioned low test scores and high unemployment as among his top concerns for the district.
Reach reporter Betsy Scheinbart by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 138.