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GOP keeps Ognibene seat with Gallagher victory

Republican Dennis Gallagher won a decisive victory against Democrat Elizabeth Crowley in a hotly contested race for City Councilman Tom Ognibene’s (R-Middle Village) seat, maintaining GOP representation in a district where voters are largely Democrats.

“I’m proud of the race I ran, I’m proud of the work I’ve done with Councilman Ognibene, and I look forward to continuing that type of tradition of service for the people of this community,” said Gallagher, Ognibene’s longtime chief of staff, after declaring victory Tuesday night.

Crowley conceded the race at 9:40 p.m. Tuesday.

“We fought a hard race,” said Crowley, who described her campaign as an “uphill battle” in a district that leans to the conservative side despite having a majority of Democrats.

Gallagher secured 59 percent of the vote compared to Crowley’s 40 percent, according to unofficial results reported on NY 1 with 46 percent of precincts reporting. Green Party candidate Sharain Pereira made up the difference with 1 percent of the vote.

Ognibene, who is barred from running for re-election by term limits, was hospitalized Sunday after suffering a heart attack and was expected to return home by the end of the week, Gallagher said.

Following a victory party at a local restaurant Tuesday, the councilman-elect said he was planning to visit Ognibene Wednesday “to thank him because he’s a great leader.”

The 30th Council District covers the communities of Middle Village, Glendale and Ridgewood, in addition to parts of Richmond Hill, Woodhaven and Forest Hills.

The race to succeed Ognibene evolved into one of the most heated contests in the borough, with Gallagher striving to maintain Republican representation in a district where voters are predominantly registered Democrats.

Having worked closely with Ognibene for 10 years, Gallagher, 37, promised to continue and build upon the legacy left by the popular incumbent, who served as council minority leader and brought much funding into the community.

“On Jan. 1, I could step right in and start making the difference immediately,” he said in mid-October. “I know the projects, I know the programs, I know the issues in the community.”

But 23-year-old Crowley said she would bring a fresh perspective into the Council, transforming the youth her detractors targeted as a liability into her greatest asset.

“The people in the community want a change,” she said two weeks before the election. “What they like is what I bring in with my youth, my energy, my freshness.”

Crowley, a substitute teacher and restorative painter who comes from a prominent political family, entered the race with the influential endorsement of the Queens County Democratic Organization. Although both parents served on the City Council and her cousin is U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), she presented herself as a political outsider who would bring new ideas to the table.

While Gallagher also had the backing of the county Republican organization, the Democrats have a much stronger footing in the borough, offering a boost of support that can be crucial in close races.

Crowley won the Democratic primary by a comfortable margin but failed to pick up a majority of votes, earning 46 percent in her race against School Board 24 members Linda Sansivieri and Robert Cermeli.

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

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