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Boro elects first black for beep

One of the most prolonged and dramatic election seasons in city history ended Tuesday with Democrats apparently sweeping all but one council seat in Queens and propelling Helen Marshall into the borough presidency as the first black elected to represent the entire county.

In heavy voter turnout, Republican billionaire and political neophyte Michael Bloomberg pulled off a stunning upset to beat Democrat Mark Green and win the mayor’s office.

Most Queens voters decried the recent nastiness of the mayoral campaign and expressed disappointment in both Green and Bloomberg Tuesday, but that did not stop them from pulling the lever for the Republican. Some preliminary reports had Bloomberg taking much of the Queens vote, particularly in northeast Queens.

Marshall, the Democratic councilwoman from East Elmhurst, easily beat City Councilman Alfonso Stabile (D-South Ozone Park) for the Queens borough presidency with about 69 percent of the vote, unofficial tallies showed. Marshall is now the first African-American to hold the post in Queens and the second woman after longtime incumbent Claire Shulman.

Bloomberg’s win appeared to have buoyed Queens’ Republicans in western Queens, where a Republican held onto the seat occupied by Councilman Thomas Ognibene (R-Middle Village).

Tuesday’s election also brought in a new city council delegation from Queens, with all of the current 14 members prohibited from running for re-election because of the new term limits law.

Although Queens has been a primarily Democratic borough, it also fielded three of the six Republicans in the 51-member City Council. Despite the host of candidates running in this year’s council elections, there were few strong Republican hopefuls in the borough.

It looked like the Queens Republican Party was able to retain only one of its three council seats in Tuesday’s general election, unofficial results show.

Republican Dennis Gallagher, chief of staff to Ognibene, won his bid to replace the councilman by a 20 percent margin. But Republican Dennis Saffran appeared to have lost his effort to succeed City Councilman Mike Abel (R-Bayside) in northeast Queens and Republican candidate Joann Ariola also failed to win outgoing City Councilman Alfonso Stabile’s (R-Ozone Park) seat, according to preliminary results.

In the Queens borough president’s race, Marshall repeated her success from the Sept. 25 primary and easily beat Republican competitor Stabile by a wide margin of the vote, unofficial results show. Marshall’s general election victory had been almost a foregone conclusion among many in the borough, including outgoing Borough President Claire Shulman.

The mayoral race was neck-and-neck throughout much of Election Night, with early results showing Green just a few thousand votes ahead of Bloomberg. But just after midnight Wednesday morning, Bloomberg pulled ahead with about 40,000 more votes than the public advocate for a surprising victory.

The 2001 election had earned its place in history well before the World Trade Center disaster canceled the original Sept. 11 primary election and wrenched voters’ thoughts away from politics.

The city’s contentious term limits law, limiting elected officials to two consecutive terms in office, came into full effect this year and prohibited the entire Queens city council delegation from running for office as well as three prominent Queens politicians: Shulman, City Council Speaker Peter Vallone (D-Astoria) and City Comptroller Alan Hevesi, a Forest Hills resident.

With so many political positions open for the taking, an unprecedented number of candidates ran for office in Queens, resulting in a dizzying Democratic primary election in September. Many city council elections in the borough featured more than three candidates, with some including as many as 10 or more competitors in the same race.

That primary was canceled at midmorning Sept. 11 because of the terrorist attacks which toppled the World Trade Center, killing thousands of civilians and about 343 city firefighters.

The primary election was eventually rescheduled for Sept. 25, and a Democratic mayoral run-off between Green and Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer was held Oct. 11.

Because Tuesday’s general election was the fourth vote in the city in two months many questioned how many people would actually come out to the polls. But voter turnout was high, with many election workers comparing this week’s vote to a presidential election, when turnout is traditionally higher than normal.

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

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