13 candidates vie for $$$ in race for Watkins’ seat

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City council candidates hoping to replace Juanita Watkins (D-Laurelton) used their connections in the southeast Queens community to drum up hundreds of donations, adding up to more than $20,000 in contributions for three of the 13 contenders.

City council candidates are limited to $137,000 in donations for the primary election and $137,000 for the general election. The most recent filing deadline was July 16.

The candidates are vying for Council District 31, which covers Laurelton, Rosedale, Far Rockaway, Arverne, Edgemere, Bayswater, parts of Springfield Gardens, Cambria Heights South and South Ozone Park.

Borough of Manhattan Community College professor James Blake, a Democrat, raised $21,269 and received matching funds for $13,404, records with the Campaign Finance Board showed. He spent $22,0454, leaving him with $52,840.

The board matches donations from residents of the city 4-to-1 up to $250 per donation, with a maximum total of $75,350. A $250 donation becomes $1,250 for a candidate’s campaign.

Many of Blake’s contributors work for the city Board of Education or city universities. The average donation was $55.

“I hope after teaching as a full professor for all these years that I have an influence with these folks,” Blake said of the academic community.

Blake spent money on campaign literature, posters and other expenses from running a campaign headquarters.

The only Republican in the race, Everly Brown, did not report any funds raised in his most recent filing June 21. He could not be reached for comment by press time.

Democrat Amanda Clarke reported $26,210 donations to the board, $16,250 of which was matched. She spent $10,123 on mailings, food for fund-raisers and rent for her campaign office, leaving her with $81,087.

Clarke raised more money than any other candidate registered with the finance board with an average donation of nearly $120.

Clarke got financial support from a variety of donors, including many city employees and medical or law professionals. She could not be reached for comment by press time.

Democrat Sikiru Fadairo raised $17,274 in campaign funds and had $8,630 by the board. He laid out $16,010 in expenditures and had $35,784 left. His average donation was $110.

Most of Fadairo’s donors declined to give their occupations, but those who did were a lawyer, professor, physical therapist, computer retailer and accountant. Many contributed to his campaign on more than one occasion.

Fadairo spent money on rent for his office, print ads, campaign mailings and office expenses. He could not be reached on the phone because he was out of the country.

The Rev. Henrietta Fullard, pastor of Bethel A.M.E. Church and a Democrat, raised $7,772 and received matching funds from $3,043 of those donations. She spent $4,908 and has $15,000 left in the bank.

Many of her contributors work for either her church or other city churches. Contributions ranged from $3 to $2,000, averaging $39.

“As a member of a church community, you have members supporting you,” Fullard said. “Pastors are considered to be one of the many leaders in the community.”

Fullard spent money on printed materials and office supplies.

Democrat Carol Howell did not report any funds raised when she filed with the board June 21. She could not be reached for comment by press time.

Democrat Charlotte Jefferson raised $15,915, with an average donation of $96. Of her earnings, $12,295 were matched. She spent $13,386 and has $51,709 remaining.

Jefferson received financial support from a wide range of Queens residents, including retired people, city employees and people who work for the Queens district attorney.

“People are very concerned about this race and I am trying to get people energized and involved,” Jefferson said. “It is important for them to know the impact of this race on the borough.”

She spent money on food and space for fund-raisers, mailings and other office expenses.

Democrat Edward Lewis raised $10,010, much of which was eligible for matching funds. The board matched $7,411, but he spent $8,758, so he has $30,896 left in his coffers.

Lewis got donations from several educators, lawyers and other professionals, including City Councilwoman and borough president candidate Helen Marshall (D-East Elmhurst). His average donation was $69.

“I just went to neighborhood people I know and people in my church” for support, Lewis said.

He spent money on mailings, literature, his campaign headquarters and his campaign kick-off.

Democrat James Sanders raised $24,783, about half of which — $12,839 — was matched by the finance board. He spent $7,966, on a campaign consultant, fund-raisers and mailings, leaving him with $28,173.

Sanders received donations from teachers, social workers, pastors and other professionals. The average donation was $68.

Sanders said that although he is from the Rockaways, he got a lot of support from people on the “mainland,” such as in Laurelton. “We went to the highways and the byways, searched high and low” for financial support, he said.

Four of the candidates in Council District 31 are not participating in the matching funds program and if they choose to exceed the $137,000 cap, then their competitors will be eligible for matching funds at a rate of 5-to-1 instead of 4-to-1 with a maximum total of $91,333.

Democrats Rey Clarke and David Hooks, Independent Rosalind O’Neal and Green Party candidate Francisco Pena, who are not participating in the matching-funds program, could not be reached for comment by press time.

Reach reporter Betsy Scheinbart by e-mail at or call 229-0300 Ext. 138.

Posted 7:16 pm, October 10, 2011
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