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Special election to determine Gallagher’s replacement

What was already going to be a hotly contested City Council race in 2009 will happen sooner than expected, as a minimum of four candidates will vie for Dennis Gallagher’s western Queens seat in a June special election.
Republicans Anthony Como and Thomas Ognibene as well as Democrats Elizabeth Crowley and Charles Ober had all declared candidacy for the 2009 elections, so the special election, set off by Gallagher’s resignation and plea deal for assaulting a woman in his Middle Village office, is forcing them to increase their campaign efforts.
“It kind of just sped things up so to speak,” said Como, who has served as a prosecutor in Queens and currently serves as a commissioner for the city board of elections in Queens. “We were ready, we have the foot soldiers in place. We have to run with it a little faster.”
Crowley, whose parents both served in the City Council and whose cousin, Joseph Crowley, is a Queens Congressmember and Chair of the Queens Democratic Organization, originally ran for this council seat in 2001, but she said her experience working in the community since then will be a valuable asset to her campaign.
“Education to me is probably the single most important issue today,” Crowley said. “I feel that our kids are not getting the best education they can get. Far too many are falling through the cracks in overcrowded classrooms.”
Meanwhile, Crowley had already raised more than $70,000 for her campaign as of the last reporting period for campaign finance records, but she said fundraising would not determine who wins the election.
“It’s really voter contact,” said Crowley who plans to start door-to-door campaigning very soon. “I firmly believe the more people I meet, the more people will come out and vote for me. They will see my beliefs and how genuine I am.”
In addition to Crowley, Charles Ober, the President of the Ridgewood Democratic Club and First Vice President of the Ridgewood Property Owners and Civic Association, is expected run.
While it appears that the majority of Democratic political operatives will back Crowley, the Republican picture is a little more unsettled.
Como, who started his political career working for State Senator Serphin Maltese, has received Maltese’s endorsement as well as that of Queens Republican Party Chair Phil Ragusa.
However, some Republicans are likely to throw their support behind Ognibene, who held council seat in the district for 10 years before Gallagher succeeded him, and Ognibene said he is not concerned that the Queens Republican party is not backing him.
“I look forward to running because my record will demonstrate that I am the most qualified candidate for the job,” said Ognibene, who will focus his time on receiving endorsements from the smaller neighborhood political clubs.
Yet, Como questioned Ognibene’s involvement in the community during the past number of years.
“The problem is you can’t be vacant and not around in the past 15 years and know how to serve the community,” Como said.

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