By Kelsey Durham and Juan Soto
A heated race between two congressional candidates failed to draw much voter turnout in northeast Queens during Tuesday’s primary, and as of midnight Grant Lally held a slight lead over Stephen Labate as both vied for the chance to challenge U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Melville) on the Republican ticket in November.
With 100 percent of the vote counted, Lally drew 51 percent of the total vs. 49 percent for Labate, according to results from NY1. With 21 of 29 counties completely reported, Lally led Labate by a total vote count of 1,769-1,583, according to the New York State Board of Elections unofficial results. In Queens, the difference in votes was 15 votes with Lally garnering 338 votes and Labate bringing in 323, according to the state Board of Elections website. Lally will be running on the Conservative line in the general election.
The city Board of Elections opened polling locations in Little Neck, Douglaston, Whitestone and Bay Terrace — the only four Queens neighborhoods in the 3rd Congressional District — but BOE volunteers running the sites said they spent much of the day looking for ways to pass the time. As of 4 p.m., site coordinators at PS 169 at 18-25 212 St. in Bay Terrace said a total of 37 people had come out to vote since the polls opened at 6 a.m.
“We had people come in today who didn’t even know who was running or what race this was,” said Sylvia Johnson, a BOE coordinator who has been working the primaries for the past five years. “We even had registered Democrats come in asking whether or not they had to vote.”
One polling place in Douglaston, PS 98 on 235th Street, was decorated with several signs reading “Vote Here” in multiple languages, but many of the building’s doors seemed to be locked in the afternoon and the few voters who did show up were confused about how to get inside.
In the southeastern part of the borough, where a Democratic primary was taking place between U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) and challenger Joseph Marthone, voters who went to the windowless polling station in the basement of Queens Central Library in Jamaica said coming out to vote was very important to them.
Meeks captured 82 percent of the vote with 100 percent of the precincts counted against Marthone, an accountant, who got 18 percent in his second primary race against the congressman. The 5th Congressional District covers southeast Queens and part of Nassau.
“The same way I have rights, I have duties,” said Amanda, a Jamaica resident for the past 25 years, who did not give her last name. “Our politicians decide our future.”
But with all the media attention focused on the hotly contested Charles Rangel (D-Harlem) and Adriano Espaillat congressional primary in northern Manhattan, Amanda thought for a moment that she was participating in that election across the river in another borough.
The Meeks and Marthone primary had drawn just 25 voters between 6 a.m., when the polls opened in the library, and 10 a.m., poll workers said.
“It’s important to vote,” said voter Ahmad, who said he always comes out to vote on Election Days. “It’s important for our human rights, our civil rights and to have fair politics,” he added.
Meeks joined Rangel Tuesday night in Manhattan and congratulated the longtime lawmaker.
“The chairman has won,” Meeks told the crowd of assembled Rangel supporters.
The polls closed at 9 p.m. and BOE officials still were compiling the votes a couple of hours later.
Over in western Queens, U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-Brooklyn) beat back a challenge from Jeffrey Kurzon. With 97 percent of the vote counted, the incumbent had 82 percent vs. 18 percent for Kurzon. Velazquez will face Conservative Allan Romaguera in the general election.
The 7th Congressional District snakes through Brooklyn into the southern tip of Manhattan and up into the Queens neighborhoods of Maspeth, Woodhaven and Ridgewood.