Race for Council heats up – QNS.com

Race for Council heats up

Ernest Flowers, Jacques Leandre, Donovan Richards
Photos by Rich Bockmann (l.) and Christina Santucci
By Rich Bockmann

The Democratic campaign trail in southeast Queens is starting to get crowded with two new candidates ramping up to join Donovan Richards in the race to represent the District 31 seat that will be vacated by his boss, City Councilman James Sanders (D-Laurelton).

Jacques Leandre, managing ambassador of the Southeast Queens County Young Democrats, planned to register a formal committee this week and said he will officially announce his candidacy later this month.

He joins Earnest Flowers, chairman of the Elmer H. Blackburne Democratic Club of Laurelton, who has picked up the endorsement of his club, which supported Leandre in 2009 when he challenged Sanders.

Richards, Sanders’ chief of staff, announced his bid for the seat in March and has been working quietly since then to drum up support among the councilman’s constituents.

Sanders, who was first elected to the Council in 2002, will be term-limited out of office next year. A special election for his seat could be ordered, however, if he is successful in his bid to challenge state Sen. Shirley Huntley (D-Jamaica) for her seat in November.

The 31st Council District currently covers Laurelton, Rosedale, Springfield Gardens and Far Rockaway, though the Council will go through a redistricting process prior to the September 2013 primary.

Both Leandre and Flowers have similar backgrounds in youth athletics — the former through the Rosedale Jets Football Association and the latter through his church, the Seventh-day Adventist in St. Albans. Leandre studied finance before attending law school, working first in the public interest field and is now opening his own private practice, while Flowers received a degree in economics and founded his own marketing firm.

Both men placed education and economic development on the top of their lists of priorities. Leandre criticized Mayor Michael Bloomberg for closing schools and said he would revisit the state’s decision to grant mayoral control of the city’s schools.

“Partnering with state legislators to restrict the power of the mayor would be crucial,” he said.

Flowers said the first thing he would do if elected would be to apply for a federal grant for a health care center and partner with the Boys & Girls Club to provide youth services.

“The lack of services and things to do for young folk are unacceptable, he said. “The one thing people are constantly asking me is, ‘Why don’t we have a youth center?’”

On the topic of economic development, Leandre said he would work to hold companies accountable to the community.

“If you’re doing business in the community, you should be hiring folks from the community,” he said.

Flowers said he was finishing up a comprehensive business plan that would be a quantitative and qualitative analysis of southeast Queens’ assets. The goal, he said, would be to attract medium-sized businesses that could benefit from their proximity to John F. Kennedy International Airport and available real estate.

“We need someone with the clout and confidence to go to private investors,” he said.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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