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Beep candidates meet amid flurry of dropouts

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Although the borough president candidates’ forum held by the United Community Civic Association in Astoria last Thursday offered little opportunity for political debate, it provided 50 or so attendees with ample example of the frenzied pace at which borough politics are run.

All but one candidate had made an appearance by the end of the civic’s 2-1/2-hour gathering, but showing up did not always mean they would grapple with the concerns of their audience.

Carol Gresser, the former Queens representative to the Board of Education, spoke by proxy through a representative who admitted she was unfamiliar with Gresser’s stance on any of the issues.

City Councilwoman Helen Marshall (D-East Elmhurst) arrived in time to greet the organizers as they locked up the building at the end of the night.

And while seven placards had been set up for each of candidates running for the borough presidency, it turned out by the end that only six of them were still in the race since City Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) had dropped out earlier in the week. Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer (D-Rockaway Beach) told the crowd she would remain in the race but pulled out days later.

The forum had the misfortune of being scheduled at the same time as a dinner held by the Queens Democratic Party, which meant the only candidate to appear for the first hour and a half was Queens Village activist Haydee Zambrana.

UCCA ultimately succeeded in attracting all but one of the contenders or their representatives before the meeting came to a close at 9:30 p.m., with City Councilman Sheldon Leffler (D-Hollis) entering on Pheffer’s heels as the event wound down.

Leffler and Pheffer didn’t do much talking, however. Limited by the late hour, they were spared the sometimes hostile attention of nearly 50 attendees, who had focused their questions instead on Zambrana.

“I admire your courage because you’re up against six well-known candidates,” one attendee told her. “I haven’t even heard of you.”

City Councilman Al Stabile (R-Ozone Park), the sole Republican candidate in the race, did not attend because of illness.

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.

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