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A rebuilt GOP gets competitive

Photo by Michael Shain
By TimesLedger Staff

The high-stakes drama of the presidential election this year should not overshadow the fact that Queens has 19 contested races Nov. 8 at the congressional and state levels.

For the first time in recent memory Republicans are challenging Democratic incumbents in 17 matches for seats in the state Senate and the Assembly. Two Assembly spots are open: Democrat Barbara Clark, who represented District 33, died in February and Democrat Philip Goldfeder of the 23rd District is leaving for a job in the private sector.

Under former Congressman Bob Turner, the Queens Republican Party has been rebuilt following years of infighting that reduced the clout of the GOP flag bearer and its ability to field candidates. Turner was appointed chairman in March 2015 and given a mandate to reunite the fractured party.

The race between Hillary Clinton and Queens-born Donald Trump for the White House is expected to draw significant numbers of borough voters to the polls after abysmal turnout levels in the three primaries earlier this year.

Among the most closely watched contests is the bout between Democrat Tom Suozzi and Republican Jack Martins for the 3rd Congressional District, which covers part of eastern Queens. The two Nassau politicians are vying to fill the seat held by U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Oakland Gardens), who is leaving government.

In September a Republican challenger to Martins was knocked off the primary ballot after a protracted legal battle, clearing the way for the two-man race to proceed.

Several other members of the Queens congressional delegation – U.S. Reps. Joe Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria) Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) and Grace Meng (D-Flushing) – face nominal challenges from their Republican opponents.

The race is on in western Queens to fill the seat lost by Assemblywoman Marge Markey (D-Maspeth), who suffered a stunning defeat at the hands of political newcomer Brian Barnwell in the Democratic primary. The main factor was her slow response in opposing the city’s unpopular decision to put a homeless shelter in Maspeth.

Barnwell is facing Republican Tony Nunziato, who has led the protests nightly against the shelter which Barnwell has joined, too. The political rivals have become friends.

Nunziato had tried unsuccessfully to unseat Markey twice before.

In southeast Queens Clyde Vanel won the five-way Democratic primary for Clark’s Assembly seat and now has two GOP rivals — Goldy-Francois Wellington and Leroy Gadesen — with jobs as a key issue.

Over in Ozone Park Stacey Pheffer Amato is running on the Democratic ticket against Republican Alan Zwirn for the Assembly seat to be vacated by Goldfeder. Both first-time candidates are Rockaway residents and concerned about the pace of repairs on the peninsula after Superstorm Sandy.

Assembly members David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows), Nily Rozic (D-Flushing), Michael Miller (D-Woodhaven) and Rod Kim (D-Flushing) are facing a slate of Republican opponents.

In the state Senate, where control hangs in the balance between the Republicans and the Democrats,

Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) is up against Republican Michael Conigliaro, who challenged him in the last election. The Maspeth shelter is also an issue in this contest as well as the delays in the Build It Back program to repair Sandy damage.

In other Senate races, Sens. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) and Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing) each face Republican contenders.

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