By Sadef Ali Kully
After winning the Sept 10 Democratic primary race for Mark Weprin’s former City Council seat, Barry Grodenchik celebrated at a Bellerose restaurant where cameras lit up the room and cigar smoke wafted across the sidewalk outside.
Inside the Indian restaurant Taste of Cochin filled with smell of samosas, major Queens Democratic players gathered — the Weprin brothers, Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside), Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest) and other Dem lawmakers hugging and observing Grodenchik’s victory.
Grodenchik, on leave as the director of parks and community boards for Borough President Melinda Katz, edged out Bob Friedrich, a community activist and head of Glen Oaks Village co-op, in a tight Democratic primary race.
Six candidates vied for the Democratic nomination in a highly aggressive contest.
Preliminary election results from the city Election Board showed Grodenchik with 27.5 percent of the vote with 99 percent of the scanners reporting – the board had not released official results as of late Wednesday,
Friedrich was inches away from getting into the general election but ended up with just 23 percent. The two frontrunners were separated by slightly over 300 votes.
“It was nerve-racking towards the middle when [Timesledger] started tweeting the numbers,” said Grodenchik, who was endorsed by the Queens Democratic Party.
Turnout was surprisingly strong for a special election with more than 6,700 voters going to the polls on a rainy day.
The last Democratic primary held for the 23rd Council District was in 2009, in which fewer than 8,500 votes were cast. Less than 20,000 votes were cast in the general election for the same seat in 2013.
The district is a highly diverse area of Queens covering Glen Oaks, Queens Village, Bellerose, Hollis Hills, Floral Park, Bayside Hills and other small neighborhoods.
Concanno, Grodenchik’s GOP rival who opened his campaign headquarters Monday at 247-39 Jericho Turnpike, said, “It was a very, very close race and it was a lower turnout.”
He said his campaign office was expecting many more voters to turn out.
Concannon said he was ready for general elections after already visiting thousands of homes and knew people were dissatisfied with Mayor de Blasio’s policies.
“We are getting a lot of crossovers and people are expressing one term for this mayor.”
In third place, Rebecca Lynch, a former deputy commissioner of community affairs in the de Blasio administration, captured 20 percent of the vote. Satnam Singh Parhar, a community leader and general contractor, was in fourth place with 15.5 percent.
Ali Najmi, a lawyer and activist, came in fifth with 9.6 percent followed by Celia Dosamantes, former legislative director for Assemblyman Philip Ramos, at 3.9 percent.
Grodenchik was elected to the state Assembly serving the Flushing area from 2003 to 2004, prior to which he served as a top aide to former Queens Borough President Claire Shulman. He later worked for Borough President Helen Marshall.
He ran and lost in a race for City Council in 2001 and for re-election to his Assembly seat in 2004. Grodenchik can trace the roots of his public service career to 1987, when he worked for the late Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn and later as Queens regional representative for former Gov. Mario Cuomo.
The special election was scheduled for Sept. 10 after Weprin resigned his seat June 15 to take a position on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s staff as a liaison between the governor, the state Assembly and the City Council.
The race was viewed as the most competitive in more than a decade for the spot that had been occupied by two members of the Weprin family for 14 years.
Reach Reporter Sadef Ali Kully by e-mail at skull