Today’s news:

Pataki sets date to replace Rhodd-Cummings

Gov. George Pataki has set April 16 as a special election date to fill the state Assembly seat in District 31 in southeast Queens left vacant since the death of Pauline Rhodd-Cummings earlier this year.

The announcement came Friday, more than a month after Rhodd-Cummings died. The brief statement did not offer an explanation for the delay, but a spokesman for the governor said the timing of the announcement was not unusual.

Despite the lapse in time, candidates are lining up for the Democratic nomination. The district, which covers South Ozone Park, Richmond Hill, Springfield Gardens, Far Rockaway and Laurelton, is heavily Democratic, and has voted that way since the district was formed after the 1990 census.

Candidates from the Democratic and Republican parties must file a certificate of nomination by March 18, said a spokesman for the Board of Elections. Other candidates interested in running can file a petition with the BOE to run under an independent party, which is due by March 19.

The Queens Democratic Committee is meeting Friday at 9:30 a.m. to nominate a candidate, said Queens Democratic Party Chairman Thomas Manton. Nominees will be chosen by the party in a vote of the party’s district leaders in the area where the election is to be held, he said.

Although no one has been nominated yet, about five Democratic Party members have expressed interest in running for the vacant office, Manton said.

The vote of the district leaders may give one potential candidate an advantage, Manton said. Michele Titus, one of the four Democratic district leaders who will be making the nomination decision, has expressed an interest in running, he said.

“She has a quarter of the vote,” Manton said. “She, I would say, is in the lead.”

Interest also came from David Hooks, a career planning and development associate at the State University of New York Queens Educational Opportunities Building in Jamaica, and a self-proclaimed student of the body politick.

Hooks, however, is concerned he may not meet the residency requirements. Assembly candidates must live in the district in which they are running for a year prior to the election. Hooks closed on his house in Far Rockaway on May 5, 2001, and may be a month shy of the requirement, he said.

“If I’m told that I can legally do it, then I will work diligently to get the county nod,” he said. “If I can’t, then I will stand down gracefully and move forward.”

Charles Pringle Jr. is also considering pursuing the seat. Pringle is an assistant district attorney in the Bronx and a lifelong resident of District 31, according to a news release from his office.

Patrick Jenkins, an aide to U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-St. Albans), has also shown interest, Newsday reported.

Rhodd-Cummings, a Democrat from Far Rockaway, died of cancer in January after serving three years in the Assembly. She was 56.

Rhodd-Cummings was elected to the Assembly in a special election in 1998. She filled the seat left vacant by Meeks, who was elected to the House of Representatives that year.

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 138.

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