By Adam Kramer
City Councilwoman Helen Marshall (D-East Elmhurst) made history Tuesday by becoming the first black in Queens to be elected to a boroughwide office when she defeated City Councilman Alfonso Stabile (R-Ozone Park) in the race for borough president.
Marshall will replace longtime borough president and Queens political icon Claire Shulman, who has held court in Borough Hall since 1986. She was prevented from seeking re-election because of term limits.
“My victory means that we will move Queens even further forward on a united front — one in which the borough will flourish economically and culturally,” Marshall said. “First of all, I am glad to win. I have been first many times in my life, but it seems this is the biggest.”
Marshall won 69 percent of the vote while Stabile received 30 percent of the vote and Green Party candidate Dorothy Williams-Pereira garnered only 1 percent, according to New York 1. Unofficial Board of Election results had Marshall getting 173,272 votes and Stabile capturing 76,948 with 91 percent of the precincts reporting.
The borough president-elect said it was unbelievable that Queens residents went to the polls four times after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack cancelled the original primary by midmorning.
Stabile, who had not conceded as of press time, said he would consider running for the City Council again two years down the line.
He said he thinks it hurt him that the borough president line was so far down on the ballot and he might have done better if his name was closer to the Bloomberg line.
“Losing an election is part of the American process,” he said. “I don’t let it get to me.”
A real back-and-forth campaign between the two candidates never materialized because the Stabile camp did not get into gear until a few weeks before the Nov. 6 election. Marshall’s campaign had been running at full tilt since she received the nod from the Queens County Democratic Party in May.
Stabile, who was trying to become the first Republican borough president in more than 25 years, was hurt in his election run because he did not have a primary opponent to push him to get his message out. He also lagged far behind Marshall in campaign fund raising and did not meet the minimum to qualify for matching funds.
In the Democratic primary Marshall easily defeated former Board of Education President Carol Gresser and longtime City Councilman Sheldon Leffler (D-Hollis).
Marshall raised $388,895 with $174,133 eligible for the Campaign Finance Board’s 4-to-1 matching funds program, which equals $629,984. She spent $988,714. Stabile raised $83,130 and did not receive any money from the board. He spent $75,125.
Marshall, 72, who was trained as a early childhood educator and taught nursery school, was elected to the City Council 1991 after stepping down from the state Assembly, where she had served from 1982 to 1991.
Stabile, 53, worked for the city Department of Sanitation and as a Realtor before he was elected to the City Council in 1993.
The two candidates were prevented from seeking re-election due to the term limits law passed by voter referendums in 1992 and 1996.
Both Marshall and Stabile, who have acknowledged their mutual respect, only made a few joint appearance at candidates’ nights but never had a chance to debate the issues. The two agreed on the problems facing the borough — education, transportation, the economy and illegal housing — but differed on how they would accomplish their goals.
The Marshall victory should not drastically change the inner workings of Borough Hall. Marshall has repeatedly said she would continue with many of Shulman’s programs in addition to the war room on education.
Reach reporter Adam Kramer by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 157.