By Courtney Dentch
City Councilman James Sanders Jr. (D-Laurelton) has decided not to participate in the city campaign finance matching funds program for the fall elections, a move that gives his opponents an extra dollar for each one they raise, Sanders said.
Sanders, who took office in January 2002, could face Democratic District leader James Blake in the primary vote Sept. 9, while Republican challenger Everly Brown hopes to make the ballot for November's general election, according to statements from the Campaign Finance Board.
The entire Queens Council delegation is up for reelection this year, just halfway through their four-year terms due to the redistricting process, which shifted boundary lines to reflect the population shown in the 2000 Census.
Sanders chose not to register for the finance board's matching funds program, which gives candidates $4 of public money for every eligible dollar they raise. The councilman has been fighting with the board over money he says he is owed from the last race, said a source familiar with Sanders' campaign.
The decision makes other candidates eligible for a 5-to-1 match rather than the normal 4-to-1 rate under the board's rules.
But that extra money will not give his challengers an edge, Sanders said.
“We believe that we will do quite well in fund-raising and that we'll be able to certainly match – at a minimum match – whatever they are able to generate,” Sanders said.
Sanders, chairman of the Council's Economic Development Committee, has developed a track record for pushing homegrown legislation, including a bill to change noise violation enforcement and a bill to limit access to gun ammunition, both of which were championed by district residents, he said. Sanders also wrote the nation's toughest law against predatory lending, a loan practice that forces homeowners into contracts with harsh fines and high interest rates.
“We think that once we present our position to the people of the 31st they will be pleased with what we have done,” he said.
Blake came in second to Sanders in the 2001 council election, and the longtime Laurelton resident is trying again.
“I don't like to leave anything incomplete that I start. I have not finished this,” Blake said.
Blake has been heavily involved in youth activities in southeast Queens and started the VIP program to create jobs and employment training for teens, he said. He also organizes an annual tour of colleges for black high school students, he said.
“If we don't focus on our youth than we don't have a future for our community,” said Blake, a counselor at the Borough of Manhattan Community College. “The services to youth are sorely lacking. We don't have place for them to hang out.”
Blake also hopes to focus on economic development, especially along the Merrick Boulevard commercial strip, he said.
Blake is counting on a smaller playing field than the previous election, where nearly 10 candidates were vying for the seat, to gain votes, he said.
“In the last election we had many candidates,” Blake said. “We split the vote. We had some very, very good people running in the same area.”
Everly Brown, a Republican who filed with the Campaign Finance Board, could not be reached for comment.
Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.