By Patrick Donachie
Candidates in the Democratic primary race to run for the seat left vacant by the death of state Assemblywoman Barbara Clark have learned if they qualified for the ballot.
Five candidates remain on the ballot for the Sept. 13 primary after the city Board of Elections approved the signatures gathered on their petitions to run for office. Leroy Gadsen, head of the Jamaica branch of the NAACP, was knocked off the ballot.
The five are vying to represent Assembly District 33, an area that includes Cambria Heights, St. Albans, Queens Village, Hollis and Bellerose.
Barbara Clark died in February after holding the seat for nearly 30 years.
Community advocate Clyde Vanel, a lawyer; Roy Paul, a board member for the Jamaica Service Program for Older Adults; community advocate Sabine French; Community Board 13 Chairman Brian Block; and Nantasha Williams, the chief of staff for Assemblywoman Diana C. Richardson (D-Brooklyn), have qualified for the race, according to the primary contest list released on the Board of Elections site.
Vanel announced recently that he received the endorsement of Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Arverne) and Pastor Floyd Flake, who heads the congregation of the Greater Allen AME Cathedral in Jamaica. Flake said Vanel would be “the kind of leader” the community needs in the Assembly.
Paul was elected to public office on a school board at the age of 19, and he has continued his passion for education issues. In an interview, he also spoke about the need for equity in funding and in the allocation of resources, saying that schools in the district sometimes lack the essentials that schools in nearby District 26 have in ample supply.
“It’s that different, and we’re only 10 to 15 minutes apart from each other,” he said. “When teachers have to go on GoFundMe to get chalk and erasers, we have a problem.”
In an interview, French said her desire to run was spurred prior to Clark’s death and was inspired by the challenges she faced with a child who was enrolled in several schools.
“I believe I can be a voice of the community, as a community organizer and as a parent,” she said and stressed the need for equity in education funding. “I believe all children deserve an equal opportunity to get an education, but the money and opportunity should be distributed equally.”
Williams stressed the need for increased public participation in local elections and stepped-up efforts to protect southeast Queens residents from foreclosure.
“Protecting homeowners is really important. We have one of the highest rates of foreclosure. It’s an issue for everyone in the community,” she said. “We have to provide necessary resources for people to stay and maintain their homes.”
Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdona