By Patrick Donachie
Lawyer Clyde Vanel defeated four other candidates in the race to fill the state Assembly seat vacated by Barbara Clark, who died earlier this year. The contest was close in the race to represent a district that includes parts of Cambria Heights, Glen Oaks, Queens Village, Rosedale and Springfield Gardens.
Vanel received 31.7 percent of the vote, while Nantasha Williams, the chief of staff for Assemblywoman Diana Richardson (D-Brooklyn), was close behind with 27.4 percent of the vote. In all, Vanel received 1,643 votes out of 5,182 cast, according to unofficial tallies from the state Board of Elections.
Other challengers included Roy Paul, a board member of the Jamaica Service Program for Older Adults; Sabine French, a community advocate and activist; and Bryan Block, the chairman of Community Board 13.
Clark died in February. She had held the seat since 1986, making this contest the first time in three decades the Assembly seat had not had an incumbent in the race. Several of the candidates said they had not thought about running for the seat before Clark’s death and entered the fray on the basis of interest from supporters.
Vanel’s political career began when he challenged then-Councilman Leroy Comrie in 2009, and he also challenged Clark in a Democratic primary in 2012. Vanel is an attorney specializing in business and intellectual property, and was previously a restaurant owner.
Turnout varied at polling sites throughout the district. At Public School 191 in Bellerose, poll coordinator Russell Carey said there had not been many voters at the polls. The area is in the northeastern end of the district. Carey said he had not seen much coverage of the primary date in the media and speculated that people might not even be aware there was a primary today.
However, he suspected results would be different in the November presidential general election.
“They’ll be standing outside banging on the door, waiting to get in!” he said.
Meanwhile, candidates and supporters hoisted placards and shook hands outside of the Mathematics, Science, Research and Technology High School in Cambria Heights. Block and Williams were both outside the polling place, greeting voters as they entered the school to cast their ballot.
Councilman I. Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans) was at the site and said, from his perspective, the election process had been going smoothly in comparison to criticisms of the city Board of Elections during the presidential primaries in April. A voter who went to cast his ballot at PS 134 in Hollis at about 5 p.m. reported a low turnout there as well.
In the 32nd Assembly District, which covers Jamaica Estates, Rochdale Village and Springfield Gardens, Assemblywoman Vivian Cook piled up 75 percent of the votes and challenger Rodney Reid had 21.5 percent with nearly all of the precincts reporting, according to the state BOE.
Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdona