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Two in tussle over 3rd-party bid for Waldon seat

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The Queens Independence Party is in disarray. But two candidates in the upcoming March 28 special election for former state Sen. Alton Waldon's (D-St. Albans) seat, which stretches from Cambria Heights to the Rockaways, claim the beleaguered party is endorsing them.

Two factions of the Queens Independence Party are claiming leadership and have a case pending both in State Supreme Court and with the New York City Board of Elections. The warring divisions are trying to resolve which one has the right to nominate candidates and represent the party's 8,000 registered Independence Party voters in the county.

Former Assemblywoman Cynthia Jenkins, a Democrat, is backed by one faction known as the Queens County Interim Organization of the Independence Party, while Jamaica resident Carolyn Younger has the support of Queens Independence Party Chairman Mike Niebauer.

To make matters more confusing, the party's state chairman, Jack Essenberg, has thrown his support behind a third nominee, Malcolm Smith, who also has the support of the Queens Republican Party, the Conservative Party as well as his own Democratic Party.

Another case is pending in Albany where the Interim Organization is challenging Essenberg's authority to nominate a candidate.

Smith said he wants to steer clear of the internal party struggle, but did not specify whether or not he would accept the Independence line if he was endorsed.

The Board of Elections was expected to decide Tuesday night which candidate would be placed on the ballot on Row C and indirectly decide who is running the Queens Independence party. But according to Younger, the board said it would follow the decision of a hearing Wednesday at State Supreme Court in Jamaica after press time.

Niebauer has chaired the Queens Independence Party since 1994 and calls the Interim Organization a "cult group" which follows Leonora Fulani, a former presidential candidate who ran as a Marxist and mixed political activism with psychotherapy.

But George Everett, the chairman of the Interim Organization, said at a meeting back in June that Essenberg was voted out of the state chairman's position and therefore all of the state's county leaders, including Niebauer, could be replaced.

Everett, who lives in Woodside, said the Independence Party in New York was ripe for change. He denied the party was a "cult," said Fulani had been a great help in organizing the party statewide, and denied that the party was a radical organization. He also said Jenkins was the best candidate for southeast Queens because she has repeatedly stood up to the Democratic Party machine.

"I am the Independence Party candidate," said Jenkins, who is also running on the Community First line, a group opposed to the building of a multiplex theater in Springfield Gardens.

The Independence Party is the New York state affiliate of the National Reform Party, which Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura distanced himself from because of what he described as party divisiveness.

Niebauer said he represents the views that party founders such as Ross Perot espouse, while Everett is aligned with the wing of the Reform party that backs Pat Buchanan, a conservative former presidential candidate.

He also said the Queens Independence Party has consistently helped Jenkins and was upset she has aligned herself with his political opponents.

"She's a back-stabber," Niebauer said.

But Jenkins maintains Niebauer is no longer the county chairman, and she has the backing of the true Independence Party leaders.

Meanwhile, the Queens Liberal Party is supporting former state Sen. and Assemblyman Andrew Jenkins, who now works at the Continuing Education Office of York College in Jamaica. He is not related to Cynthia Jenkins.

In 1982, as an assemblyman, Andrew Jenkins sponsored legislation that created the 10th state Senate District, and then became the first to hold the office.

But Andrew Jenkins was convicted in 1990 of taking $150,000 from a man he thought was a financier and promised to launder the money through a bank Jenkins owned in Zaire. He was removed from office under the Public Officers Law in 1991, and was replaced by Waldon, who stepped down in January to become a state judge.

Andrew Jenkins said it was time to return to politics and work for his community again.

"I am still the top black vote getter in Queens," Andrew Jenkins said.

He said between rising gasoline prices, a possible return of the West Nile encephalitis virus, and the fallout from the Amadou Diallo verdict, this will be a tense summer for southeast Queens.

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