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Queens Council delegation eyes life after term limits

By Zach Patberg

All but one member of the Queens delegation entered the Council together in 2001. A breeze of a re-election cycle last year kept them there for a second term. Now that same body is preparing for the inevitable exodus in four years due to a two-term limit law, leaving the question of where they will go next and how soon.”Not everybody is looking for a specific position,” said Evan Stavisky, a political consultant for many of the borough's Democratic races. “But clearly everyone is raising money and support looking toward the future.”Councilman Thomas White (D-Jamaica), who replaced Allan Jennings last year, is the sole member in Queens who does not face being forced out in 2009. He had to give up his Council seat in 2001 because of term limits.The most forthright with his ambitions has been Councilman David Weprin (D-Hollis), who says he will run for city comptroller in 2009 when William Thompson is term-limited out. As chairman of the Council's Finance Committee, Weprin is seen as a logical choice to bid for the spot.Other possible challengers for the city's chief financial officer post are state Assemblyman James Brennan (D-Brooklyn) and Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion.Weprin has already been raising money and support. A May 2 fund-raiser celebrating his 50th birthday should give his early campaign a boost while also providing a litmus test for his chances, his chief of staff, Jack Friedman, said.”David already has over $460,000 in the bank to campaign with,” he said. “But it'd be nice to see a few hundred thousand more dollars from the fund-raiser. It's an indication to other candidates that he's a front-runner in this thing.”Friedman added that Weprin would probably run for comptroller even if term limits were extended – an option currently at issue in the Council.Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside), who has $133,307 in his coffers, has also made no secret of his plans to try to replace either state Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin (D-Flushing), who announced he will not seek another term this year, or veteran state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose).While not as committal as Weprin or Avella, several of their colleagues do not rule out the public offices they have been rumored to be eyeing.”I wouldn't eliminate any possibility,” Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) said when asked if he was contemplating a bid for Borough President Helen Marshall's seat when she leaves it in 2009 due to term limits. “Other have told me they'd like to see that.”But I just got a new committee,” he continued, referring to his recent appointment to head the Consumer Affairs Committee. “I'm going to get that up and rolling before I consider anything.”Councilman James Sanders (D-Laurelton) had a similar response about talk of his interest in unseating U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-St. Albans) later this year.”We've definitely gotten the buzz that we should, we could run for this,” he said. “On the one hand, it's flattering, but we're just starting our (second) term. And my district is beset by many problems.”Councilman Eric Gioia (D-Sunnyside), who did not return messages for comment, is said to be considering the public advocate seat after his two terms are up. He has $554,936 in campaign funds filed..Indeed, despite their ambivalence, many Queens members have kept their war chests padded just in case.Comrie has $211,624 set aside, while Sanders has raised $162,462. Another rumored borough president contender, Councilwoman Melinda Katz (D-Forest Hills), has an intimidating $723,320 in her coffers. Much of her money, as well as Comrie's and Weprin's, however, is left over from her recent unsuccessful bid to become council speaker.Yet others insist that future employment had not crossed their mind.”I have no plans for the Assembly,” Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) said when asked if he would challenge state Assemblyman Jimmy Meng (D-Flushing). “And I have no plans to make plans.”Reach reporter Zach Patberg at news@timesledger.com or at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

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