Live Blog: 2014 Queens Democratic Primary

By TimesLedger staff

The TimesLedger Newspapers is covering four state Senate races, one Assembly race and the gubernatorial contest in Queens.

Mayor comes to Jamaica to campaign for Comrie

State Sen. hopeful Leroy Comrie got one last push for his campaign in the early evening hours before the polls closed.

Mayor Bill de Blasio dropped by Jamaica a little after 6 p.m. to help get out the vote for the former councilman.

“Have you voted yet?” the mayor asked a couple who was passing by.

“No,” they said. “But we are going to vote for him,” they said, pointing at Comrie.

De Blasio campaigned with Comrie and other elected officials from southeast Queens, for about 25 minutes, giving out fliers and shaking hands with commuters.

Some people coming from work out of the subway station at Archer Avenue did not stop and kept walking as they were trying to get to a bus to go home.

But most stopped, talked with the mayor and the candidate, and even took photos and, of course, selfies.

At the bus and subway station in Jamaica at Archer Avenue, there was the battle of the air horns.

Volunteers working for state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Jamaica) and others working for Leroy Comrie were trying to figure out who were the louder ones.

Comrie’s camp won in this case, as his campaign volunteer outnumbered those of Smith. Both the senator and the former councilman were standing a few feet apart, each giving out fliers about their campaigns to straphangers heading home after a full day of work.

—Juan Soto

Voters ignore Elmhurst homeless shelter flap in Stavisky/Jung race

The activism that gripped residents of Elmhurst since the city placed a homeless shelter at the former Pan American Hotel in June did not appear to create any groundswell at the polls as state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) had feared.

At IS 5, just down the street, there were many Korean and Chinese voters, according to translator Kim Myon Geha. “It was crowded early on. I guess they’re all at work now,” she said. “I didn’t hear anyone mention the Pan American or the homeless, so maybe it isn’t such a powerful issue.”

Stavisky had said that she thought she might be hurt politically by being one of the last public figures to know that the city had moved homeless families into what is now known as The Boulevard Family Center. “They started moving families in on June 6 and I learned of it the following morning when we checked voicemail,” she said in a recent interview with the TimesLedger.

Her opponent in the 16th Senate District, S.J. Sung, appeared at one of the rallies at the Pan American Hotel in support of the protesters.

Kevin Park, a Jung supporter from New Jersey, sat outside IS 5 with campaign posters covering his SUV.

“I didn’t come because of the Pan Am issue,” Park said. “I’m here because I admire his philosophy and ideas. I like his efforts to clean up corruption and bring transparency, not that Stavisky is an offender in that department, I just think it’s time for someone new with fresh ideas.”

He added the he had not seen too many Jung supporters during his four hours in front of the school.

“I’ll give it another half hour, but then I have to get back to Jersey to pick up the kids from school,” he said.

—Bill Parry

Rookie poll worker makes her debut in Woodside

Carolyn Castro was supervising a polling precinct for the first time as she managed the site at the Big Six Towers on Queens Boulevard in Woodside.

“It’s been a steady flow and all the machines are working, so so far so good,” she said earlier in the day. “I live a block away, so it’s good to see all of the neighbors from the Towers and the surrounding neighborhood.”

Castro had two assistants making sure everything went according to plan for the rookie.

“We were worried that things wouldn’t run smoothly, so we wanted to keep our eyes on her,” Katherine Randall said.

The other assistant, Maryann Barnes, said, “We had one candidate stop by. Dmytro Fedkowskyj paid a visit around noon, but other than that it’s just a normal voting day at the Big Six.”

Fedkowskyj, a Middle Village attorney, is challenging Assemblywoman Margaret Markey (D-Maspeth) in the 30th District Democratic primary.

—Bill Parry

Liu/Avella race dominates primary in NE Queens

Voters in Bayside were faced with what has been considered one of the state’s hottest races as former City Comptroller John Liu seeks to unseat State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside). Many voters said they had heard more about the Liu/Avella Democratic primary race than any others on the ballot Tuesday, including the contest for governor.

“Cuomo is in the news a lot so you hear a lot about him instead of the challengers,” said one voter, who wished to remain anonymous, at Benjamin Cardozo High School. “I think people just assume he’s going to win no matter what.”

Outside PS 169 in Bay Terrace, Avella and a team of campaign workers greeted voters as they entered the school, while a group of Liu supporters, including state Assemblyman Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside), handed out cards in support of the challenger.

Avella said PS 169 was one of the sites that gets the most traffic during elections, but election workers said turnout in northeast Queens was somewhat low as of Tuesday afternoon. They said they expected the pace to pick up as people filed in after work and said a late push is usually seen right before the polls close at 9 p.m.

At PS 129 in College Point, turnout was low about four hours after the polls opened, with less than a dozen people coming through the polling site by that time.

Voters at Bayside High School and Benjamin Cardozo High School agreed that they had heard more from Avella and Liu’s campaigns than from the gubernatorial candidates.

“We really haven’t heard from them here at all,” Florence Hochhauser, a Bay Terrace resident, said of Cuomo and his two challengers, Kathy Hochul and Randy Credico, at the top of the Democratic primary ballot.

—Kelsey Durham

Some Republicans turned away from polls in Middle Village

The PS 49 poll site coordinator Donna Cassillo in Middle Village said she was surprised by how many had come out to vote, saying at least 100 had scanned ballots by 2 p.m.

A few Republicans attempted to vote in this relatively conservative community, apparently forgetting it is a strictly Democratic primary this year.

Quite a few voters declined to discuss which candidates they supported.

Michael Rimanich said he cast his ballot for Cuomo because he liked his education and infrastructure policies. He voted for Cuomo’s lieutenant governor pick, Kathy Hochul, after seeing the two together in commercials.

—Sarina Trangle

SE Queens voter says people are ‘tired of politicians’

A poll site coordinator at IS 192 in Hollis said about 100 people had voted up until 2 p.m, but he added that he expected “a lot more voters coming in after work hours.”

In the windowless first floor gym at the school, Fay Carson cast her ballot. A little afterward, she said she thought voter turnout was slow “because I really think a lot of people are tired of politicians.”

She knew about the three candidates running in the 14th District State Senate race – incumbent Sen. Malcolm Smith, former Councilman LeRoy Comrie and lawyer Munir Avery — “but I didn’t see anyone of them during the campaign.”

Smith and the two senatorial hopefuls voted in the morning.

Smith voted at the Robert Ross Johnson Family Life Center at 172-17 Linden Blvd., while Comrie cast his ballot at PS 118 and Avery voted at the Grace Houses at 155-02 90th Ave.

—Juan Soto

Voters cite power of the ballot in Jamaica

At the main Queens Library in Jamaica, where voters are deciding between state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Jamaica), former Councilman Leroy Comrie and newcomer Munir Avery for the Albany seat, the turnout was slow“but steady,” said a poll worker. Some voters did not know much about the Senate race, even though it is one of the most contested matches in the city.

“I am interested in voting,” Shimul Shaha said. “And my husband also told me to come out because he always votes.”

In one of the southeast Queens polling sites at the public library, about 100 people had cast their ballots by 12 p.m.

Down the block from the library, volunteers were holding signs in favor of Avery.

In St. Albans, at PS 118, Gladys Smith said, “It is important to come out and vote.”

She added, “If we really want changes in our communities, we have to vote.”

Juan Soto

Voting picks up in Sunnyside

Turnout seemed stronger at the Queen of Angels Parish Center in Sunnyside.

Poll site coordinator Gregory Lecakes said about 140 voters had scanned ballots by noon. He said things went smoothly, aside from having to tell a Uniformed Fire Officers member handing out pro-Markey literature to back away from the site. Dmytro Fedkowskyj, the incumbent’s challenger, visited the site and told poll workers to smile despite the long day ahead.

Still, most voters appeared focused on the executive races. Tammie Engelhart said she wanted to oust Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his lieutenant governor pick, Kathy Hochul, whom she viewed as conservative and another pro-big business move by Cuomo.


Sarina Trangle

Liu, Markey cast their ballots amid light early voting at the polls

Voters were fairly scarce at JHS 185 in Flushing as state Senate candidate John Liu arrived to vote in Tuesday’s Democratic primary accompanied by Borough President Melinda Katz and his wife, Jenny.

“This is an important election. There is a lot at stake,” he told reporters outside the school before going inside to punch his ballot. “We have issues of statewide impact, such as women’s equality and the minimum wage, which I pledge to pass straight away.”

Liu is squaring off against Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) in one of the most closely watched races in the state. One of the key issues is Avella’s decision to leave the ranks of the mainstream Democratic Party to join the Independence Democratic Conference, which shares powers with the Republicans in Albany.

Liu also spoke briefly about local issues, such as airplane noise and co-op taxes.

“This election is about getting results. It isn’t a popularity contest,” he added.

“It’s important that everyone before the closing of the polls comes out to vote,” Katz said. “We need John Liu in the state Senate. I’m here supporting him.”

The election workers said things had been quiet so far, but they expected the rush to come at around 5:30 when people get off work.

“The morning is usually pretty dead,” said David Rutrick, one of the precinct’s election workers, who has worked on elections for three years. “Things usually pick up in the afternoon.”

Michael Mcloughlin of Whitestone said he was torn over who to vote for but decided to cast his ballot for Avella.

“I think Liu is more left leaning, but I know more about Avella and I thought his campaign had more integrity,” he said. “I didn’t like the mud slinging Liu’s camp was doing.”

He said he also voted for Zephyr Teachout, who is challenging Gov. Andew Cuomo in the primary.

“I wanted to send a message to the governor that he’s become much too conservative,” he said.

William Tien of Flushing said he voted for John Liu because he is active in the community.

“He’s a good guy and does a good job,” Tien said. “He has done a good job in the past and gives us a good image.”

Turnout appeared to be light in many parts of the borough in early voting.

Over in Maspeth state Assemblywoman Margaret Markey (D-Maspeth) was joined by her husband while voting at her alma mater, IS 73 in Maspeth. They were among four total voters who showed up during the late morning. She is facing Dymtro Fedkowskyj.

Poll site coordinator Walter Smith said only 17 voters had stopped by before 11 a.m.

But the slow start may have been a good thing since the voting booths were stationed in a cafeteria where a school employee used a microphone and whistle to marshal students through a new schedule and setup.

—Alex Robinson and Sarina Trangle

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