Sanders ousts Huntley in primary

By Rich Bockmann

Fresh off his Democratic Party primary victory last week, City Councilman James Sanders (D-Laurelton) is planning on getting right down to business in Rochdale Village, his opponent’s home turf.

When Sanders claimed victory last week over embattled incumbent state Sen. Shirley Huntley (D-Jamaica), he said his first order of business would be setting up community meetings to gauge constituent concerns. He said he was planning on holding the first of those meetings in Rochdale Village, the neighborhood Huntley calls home and thought to be one of her political strongholds.

“It’s the most dense part of the community,” Sanders explained Tuesday. “We’d like to introduce ourselves and hear from our neighbors what they want us to tackle.”

According to the city Board of Elections’ preliminary results, Sanders pulled in about 57 percent of the votes in the 10th Senate District, with Huntley collecting approximately 40 percent. Gian Jones, a Far Rockaway resident, received about 3 percent.

Sanders said he believed that in order to win the primary he needed to capture 30 percent of the votes in Rochdale and estimated the final number would be somewhere between 40 percent and 45 percent.

“We were not surprised by the outpouring from Rochdale and other communities,” he said.

Sanders snagged the prized endorsement of the Rev. Floyd Flake earlier in the race. Then his campaign got another boost about two weeks before the primary, when the state attorney general charged Huntley with tampering with an investigation into two people with close ties to the senator who ran a nonprofit that allegedly made off with $33,000 worth of taxpayer dollars.

“We were on the verge of winning before the arrest,” Sanders said “but it would have been a much smaller margin. Let’s be clear about that.”

Huntley’s campaign office could not be reached for comment.

Other areas Sanders said he thought he did well in include Far Rockaway and Rosedale — neighborhoods in his Council district that were added to the 10th Senate District when the lines were redrawn earlier this year — and South Ozone Park and Richmond Hill, where Sanders heavily courted voters in the South Asian community.

Harbachan Singh, president of the Sikh American Friendship Foundation, said Sanders campaigned hard in the various South Asian communities, whereas Huntley’s presence was either “minimal or not at all.”

Sanders opened his campaign office and held his victory party in Richmond Hill, a neighborhood that had previously been split between two Senate districts.

“That’s why it’s so important for us to have it here. We could do this a lot of places, some places closer to home,” he said.

Sanders said he would like to plan more constituent meetings in Richmond Hill, Springfield Gardens, Rosedale and South Jamaica as well as in South Ozone Park and the Rockaways, neighborhoods in which he would like to open satellite offices when he heads to Albany.

As for the main district office, he said his mind is pretty much made up.

“If I had it my way I would put it in Rochdale,” he said. “Again, it’s the most dense part of the community and fits kind of in the middle based on the new district.”

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

More from Around New York