Today’s news:

Comrie officially wins primary to succeed Spigner

It’s official.

With 177 more votes than his closest competitor, Leroy Comrie won the Democratic primary in the race to succeed his longtime boss, City Councilman Archie Spigner (D-St. Albans).

The contest was too close to call until the city Board of Elections certified it last Thursday.

Comrie will face three other candidates in the general election, but in predominately Democratic Council District 27, his Republic and independent competitors face an uphill battle.

In a five-way race for the Democratic ticket, Comrie got 29 percent of votes with 4,655, only 177 votes and one percentage point more than attorney Helen Cooper-Gregory’s 4,478.

Comrie, who has served as Spigner’s district manager for 18 years, had the benefit of the senior councilman’s support in this close contest.

“His support was critical to my victory,” Comrie said of Spigner, who is the deputy majority leader of the Council and has been a member of the legislative body since 1974.

Like all the other Queens city council members and Borough President Claire Shulman, Spigner was barred from running for re-election by term limits.

Cooper-Gregory raised nearly as much money as Comrie did and enjoyed the backing of the United for Progress Democratic Club, led by longtime District Leader Henry McCoy.

Cooper-Gregory said she believes it was Spigner’s support of Comrie that tipped the balance.

“Councilman Spigner has so many contacts. I don’t feel I had a fair opportunity to represent my voters,” Cooper-Gregory said.

Comrie also enjoyed the backing of the Queens County Democratic Party, headed by Tom Manton, and two southeast Queens clubs: Spigner and Dora Young’s Guy R. Brewer Democratic Club and the new Queens Community Democratic Club, headed by district leader Laura Sanders.

Although highly competitive, the race was fairly fought and Cooper-Gregory said she had no hard feelings.

“I want what is best for the area,” she said. “I’ll be watching Leroy for the next two years to see if he produces for the community.”

Cooper-Gregory will have the option to run for the seat again in two years when the council districts are rezoned.

Some of Comrie’s opponents in the Democratic primary criticized Spigner, claiming that he has not done anything for the community, but Comrie praised the councilman not only for his accomplishments, but for his modesty.

“He has never been one to toot his own horn,” Comrie said of Spigner.

“I concentrated on what we can do to move forward and ignored all the negative comments,” Comrie said.

He will face Republican Ishmael Morgan, Independence Party candidate Cynthia Jenkins and the Rev. Ed Mc Kay, who has no affiliation to any political party, in the general election Nov. 6.

In addition to Comrie and Cooper-Gregory, the four other Democratic candidates vying for Council District 27 were Erica Ford, Stephen Jackson, Saundra Pope and Larry Smith.

Ford earned nearly 16 percent of the votes with 2,537; Jackson took 9 percent with 1,452 votes, Pope got close to 6 percent with 912 votes; and Smith had 12.5 percent with 2,004 votes.

The southeast Queens district is based in St. Albans and stretches from part of Queens Village into Springfield Gardens. It covers part of troubled School Board 29, which Comrie used to head.

Education was overall the most widely discussed topic in the borough this election year, but in Council District 27, candidates also targeted public safety and police-community relations as being among their top concerns.

Improving day care and after-school programs were some of the other priorities Democratic candidates had for the district. Several candidates also mentioned their hopes to attract new business to the area.

Downtown Jamaica, part of which is within the bounds of the district, has great potential for development when a new movie theater opens next spring and the AirTrain begins taking passengers to John F. Kennedy International Airport in 2003.

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

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