Nunes to fight White’s slim lead

A pile of absentee votes wait to get counted at the Queens office of the city Board of Elections. Photo by Ivan Pereira
By Ivan Pereira

The waiting game continues for the Democratic voters in southeast Queens as the city Board of Elections waits to make public its counting of ballots in the near-stalemate between City Councilman Thomas White (D-South Ozone Park) and primary runner-up Lynn Nunes.

Dozens of election volunteers were hard at work at the board’s Queens offices in Kew Gardens over the last week, examining the hundreds of absentee and paper ballots cast in the Sept. 15 Democratic primary for Council District 28. The votes were fully counted by Monday, according to BOE workers, but the results were not finalized or released by press time Tuesday.

White held a six-vote lead over Nunes, a small business owner from Richmond Hill, with 100 percent of the polling stations reporting after the polls closed, but the challenger has said he will fight on until the results are finalized.

“I think it is important that we have a fair election where every vote counts,” Nunes said Tuesday.

White’s office declined to comment about the primary situation.

Along with the tallying at the BOE’s offices, workers went through voting machines at the Metro Mall in a re-canvassing effort.

The district covers Richmond Hill, Ozone Park, Jamaica and Rochdale Village. White, who is running for his second consecutive term, faced five challengers: Nunes, former Councilman Allan Jennings, Ruben Wills, Robert Hogan and Stephen Jones. There is no Republican candidate for the seat.

Jennings, Wills, Hogan and Jones accounted for 36.2 percent of the primary vote, according to the BOE. Nunes won every state Assembly district in District 28, except for Assembly District 32 in South Jamaica, according to the BOE.

Voters in southeast Queens said they would be watching the results carefully.

“No one wants to leave on Election Night not knowing what’s coming down the pipe,” said Community Board 12 Chairwoman Adoja Gzifa.

On Primary Day several voters said they did not vote for White, who had held the Council seat from 1994-2002, because he had done very little for the community during the recent economic turbulence. Many also had a problem with White’s vote to extend term limits last year, according to Gzifa.

“A lot of people told me that anyone who voted to extend term limits was not going to get the vote,” she said.

Data from the city Campaign Finance Board on the two candidates show Nunes’ close call against White was something of a David vs. Goliath struggle.

White raised more than $79,000 from 470 contributors for the Democratic primary and received more than $88,000 in matching funds, according to the Campaign Finance Board. He spent more than $136,252 on his campaign, including $1,182 for outstanding liabilities to the city Board of Elections, the CFB said.

White’s largest contributions were $2,750 from a New York lobbyist group known as Taxpayers for an Affordable NY, several real estate agents and a Brooklyn nonprofit called Simcha 2009, according to the CFB.

Nunes, who was his own largest contributor with $5,000 paid to his own campaign, had more than $33,000 in total contributions and about $88,000 in matching funds, the CFB said. He spent nearly $80,000 on his campaign, CFB records show.

All of the challenger’s 338 contributions came from individuals not groups and his average contribution was $118, according to the CFB.

Nunes said despite his financial disadvantage, he and his staff were able to garner his support at the polls with old-fashioned street campaigning.

“We were constantly out there, constantly knocking out on doors and listening to the community,” he said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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