Democrat Titus wins assembly election

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Despite low voter turnout, Democrat Michele Titus, a Board of Education lawyer and an expectant mother, was elected to the state Assembly in District 31 in a special election Tuesday to fill the seat left vacant when Pauline Rhodd-Cummings died in January.

Titus, who is eight-months pregnant with her second child, won with 913 votes, according to the city Board of Elections’ unofficial results.

She prevailed over two opponents: Michael Duvalle, the Independent candidate, who received 337 votes, and Marina Rejas, the Republican candidate, who attracted 78 votes, the Board of Elections said.

Only 1,308 of the 58,129 registered voters in the district voted, according to the Associated Press. The district covers South Ozone Park, Richmond Hill, Springfield Gardens, Far Rockaway and Laurelton.

Naomi Bernstein, a spokeswoman for the Board of Elections, said the results were not official because her office had not finished counting the votes.

Since Rhodd-Cummings’ term was set to expire at the end of this year, Titus will have to vie for reelection in November, when a general election is scheduled.

Titus, a Democratic district leader also ran on the Working Families and Liberal parties for the seat held by Rhodd-Cummings who died in January of cancer after serving on the Assembly since 1998. Titus will take office immediately, she said.

Titus, who brought her 2-year-old son Justin with her to vote Tuesday afternoon, said her victory shows the voters have confidence in her.

“It was the hard work that we put into it the issues we put out and the voters know that I’m going to take those issues to Albany,” she said Tuesday night. “I really look forward to representing my family and friends and neighbors here in the 31st district.”

Titus was the favored candidate from the start in this overwhelmingly Democratic district, but she did not let herself become complacent in what many felt to be an assured victory, she said.

“I wasn’t taking anything for granted,” she said. “We were working hard up until the very last day.”

Independent and Conservative candidate Michael Duvalle, a Far Rockaway resident and businessman, said the result might have been different had more people vote.

“It was a good fight,” Duvalle said Tuesday night after the polls closed. “It’s just the turnout was very low. I don’t consider it a victory,” for Titus, he added.

Duvalle, who ran against Rhodd-Cummings for the assembly seat in 2000, said he plans to try again for the seat in the general election this fall.

“I don’t quit,” he said. “When you quit that’s the end. When you loose, that’s not the end.”

Republican candidate Rejas, a 25-year resident of South Ozone Park, works as a school aide and education assistant in public schools, and also serves on the party’s executive committee. She was not disappointed by the loss, she said.

“Look, this is a Republican running against a Democrat who was ready for week and maybe months before me and I did it in like four days,” Rejas said.

Rejas will let the people decide if she should run again, she said.

“It was very, very exciting,” Rejas said. “The people were excited and if they want me to run again I will.”

Although voter turnout at special elections is usually low, Titus was hopeful that the bright sunshine might lure people out.

“I hope with the nice weather people will come out and vote,” she said.

But at the polls at PS 124 in South Ozone Park, only 22 people had voted by early afternoon, said Violet Baker, a poll worker.

Fellow poll worker Janice Pemberton said the election was too small and that most residents were not aware there even was an election.

“Unless it’s a presidential election no one cares,” she said. “I told my friends this morning I was going to the polls and they said, ‘Polls? What do you mean polls?’”

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

Posted 7:03 pm, October 10, 2011
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