By Joe Anuta
Data show twice the number of Democratic voters turned out last week in several southeast Queens City Council primaries compared to other districts in the west and northeast, hammering home the region’s political clout.
Out of seven contests in the borough’s Democratic primary, three Council districts in southeast Queens led the pack in raw vote numbers and were in the top four for turnout.
“There are parts of southeast Queens that are very politically active, are very active with social issues and they come out to vote,” said one political insider.
About 15,400 people voted in a hotly contested Democratic primary in the St. Albans area to decide who would succeed Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), according to unofficial tallies from the city Board of Elections. About 12,200 voters pulled the lever to nominate Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton) for the Democratic ticket and about 10,000 people voted to re-elect Councilman Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica).
That is compared to Council districts similar in population but home to fewer Democrats like Howard Beach, where about 5,900 voters turned out for the primary. About 7,700 people voted in each of two races to replace term-limited Councilmen Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) and James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows), while roughly 8,700 Democrats came out for a closely watched primary to succeed embattled City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone).
Southeast Queens also recorded some of the highest turnout.
The primary to succeed Comrie drew a roughly 20.5 percent turnout of registered Democrats, as estimated by TimesLedger Newspapers using unofficial tallies and the most recent voter registration numbers from 2011 both from the city Board of Elections.
The next highest turnout was in northeast Queens, where an estimated 19.5 percent of Democrats went to vote in the bitter five-way battle for Halloran’s seat.
Following that, 18 percent of Democrats in the district covering Laurelton and currently represented by Richards came out, while 17.3 percent voted in Wills’ race for the seat covering South Jamaica, South Ozone Park and Richmond Hill. The sheer number of Democrats means the area’s largely black population can play a crucial role in winning Queens, either for a citywide or boroughwide race.
Former Councilwoman Melinda Katz was endorsed by the influential Rev. Floyd Flake from the Allen AME Cathedral in Jamaica in her successful bid to secure the Democratic ticket for the borough president race. The move surprised some political observers because he had been expected to back Comrie, a leader in the southeast Queens community.
“I think it was a very important part of the borough president race, and the fact Melinda made such a concerted effort to lock down support there just exemplifies that,” a source said.
Southeast Queens also came out in droves to support city Public Advocate Bill de Blasio in his mayoral primary victory, according to data compiled by The New York Times.
But the leadership in southeast Queens is undergoing a period of dramatic change.
State Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Hollis) has been indicted on corruption charges and disgraced former Sen. Shirley Huntley is now serving a jail term for misdirecting government funds.
The Guy R. Brewer United Democratic Club, led by former Councilman Archie Spigner and known in decades’ past for its influential endorsements, backed a candidate, Manuel Caughman, in the race to succeed Comrie who came in fourth and garnered just 17.3 percent of the vote.
“Twenty years ago that would be unthinkable,” said a longtime Democratic operative.
Comrie, a major player in the Queens Democratic Party, had handpicked Daneek Miller to succeed him early on and the labor leader was leading as a recount was underway despite lacking Guy R. Brewer’s blessings.
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4566.