Sanders seat open after win

Photos by Rich Bockmann (l.)
By Rich Bockmann

With City Councilman James Sanders (D-Laurelton) on his way to Albany, a special election for his seat will not be called until after he has taken the oath of office Jan. 1.

Sanders, who was to be term-limited out of the Council next year, won the Democratic Party primary in his bid for state Senate last week and is running unopposed in the November election.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is responsible for calling the special election, although his office said no announcement would be made until Sanders was already a sitting legislator in Albany.

The 2013 election was already bound to bring about big changes in southeast Queens politics and the special election could give the winner of Sanders’ seat some extra clout in the Council.

In addition to Sanders, Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) will also be term-limited out after representing his district for the past 12 years. That leaves Councilman Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica), who was elected in a 2010 special election when Councilman Tom White died.

If elected, Wills still has three potential full terms ahead of him. If not, that could give the winner of the 31st Council District special election close to nine months in office before he or she is joined by new colleagues.

Leroy Gadsden, president of the Jamaica branch of the NAACP, said the turnover in Sanders’ and Comrie’s seats will be two of the biggest changes to occur in southeast Queens politics next year.

“Whoever gets Sanders’ seat will have an advantage the next year,” he said. “Whoever wins will have seniority.”

He added that Comrie’s seat is considered one of the more prized because it was occupied by Archie Spigner, the borough’s first black councilman who played an influential role in both Queens and the city from 1974-2001.

Comrie is the head of the Queens delegation in the Council.

Three candidates have already announced they will run for Sanders’ seat and started raising money for their campaigns.

Donovan Richards, Sanders’ chief of staff, got the endorsement of his boss last week.

Earnest Flowers, chairman of the Elmer H. Blackburne Democratic Club of Laurelton, has earned the endorsements of District Leaders Elmer Blackburne and Jacqueline Boyce.

Jacques Léandre, president of the Rosedale Jets Football Association, touted his endorsements from Minister Corey Terry, of Antioch Baptist Church; the Rev. James Barnwell, of Mount Olivet Baptist Church; and the Rev. Phil Craig, of Springfield Community Church.

According to the city Campaign Finance Board, Richards is ahead of the pack, having raised more than $8,000, with Flowers in second place at just shy of $5,000 and Léandre in third with $1,570.

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

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