Queens has only nine primaries - all Dems

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With a little less then two weeks before the primary for congressional and state legislative seats, the campaign front seems a bit calm compared to last year when Queens had more than 75 candidates vying for its 14 City Council seats.

The Sept. 10 primary will not hold much weight for many borough residents because they live in congressional, state senate and state assembly districts where the incumbent is the only candidate.

In Queens there are only nine Democratic primaries being held even though there are 32 seats in the Congress, state Senate and Assembly up for grabs. Republicans should not bother go to the polls because there is no GOP primary.

Incumbents with opponents in a primary race are U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-St. Albans), U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria), state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing), state Assemblywoman Michele Titus (D-Laurelton) and state Assemblywoman Vivian Cook (D-Jamaica). There is a primary for a newly formed state senate seat and primaries in two new assembly districts.

The relatively few races and a notable lack of campaign events prior to the primary are in stark contrast to the 2001 city council elections when it seemed everywhere one turned a candidate was thrusting out his or her hand.

A new law limiting the city’s elected officials to two four-year terms sparked widespread competition in races across the borough since Queens’ entire city council delegation was forced to step aside and turn their seats over to a new crop of freshman legislators.

But even though the ratio of registered Democrats to Republicans is about 4-1 in Queens, the GOP failed to mount a serious challenge in either the city or the congressional and state races.

The hotly contested mayoral primary on the Democratic side was held on Sept. 11 last year and disrupted by the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center only hours after the polls had opened. This year’s primary will be conducted on Sept. 10, a day before the borough and the rest of the city are poised to observe the one-year anniversary.

This year the quest to get on the ballot was delayed a few weeks until the U.S. Justice Department approved New York state’s redistricting plan. The holdup occurred because the state Legislature took a long time to agree on a plan to lay out new congressional, state senate and state assembly districts throughout the state.

The delay reduced the amount of time each candidate had to gather the necessary signatures to get on to the ballot.

During the so-called petitioning process candidates for Congress, the state Senate and state Assembly must collect the required number of signatures to get their names on the ballot. Candidates for governor, attorney general and comptroller can be nominated by their party or file a petition to get on the ballot.

Naomi Bernstein, spokeswoman for the city Board of Elections, said the dates to file the petitions and challenge candidates’ signatures were not affected by the delay in designing new districts.

She said it is common for candidates who were thrown off the ballot after their petitions were challenged to fight back and appeal the decision in court, which allows the board to release only tentative lists of candidates. The timing of a candidate’s court appeal, she said, depends on the court’s calendar.

“We have waited for candidates up until the day of the election,” Bernstein said. “Four years ago we had to send out election workers on Monday (before the election) to change the slates on the ballot.”

The redistricting of the borough’s state legislative and congressional district lines is carried out every 10 years to reflect increases and declines in population throughout the state based on the latest census surveys. Queens lost one congressional seat because the population declined in the state and meant the elimination of two House of Representative districts.

But Queens gained two new assembly seats because of recent population growth in the borough to more than 2 million and a drop in the upstate population.

Due to redistricting some residents in the borough may find that their legislator, whom they have come to trust over the past 10 years, is no longer representing their district. For example, downtown Flushing residents will no longer see state Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin (D-Flushing) on the ticket, but will find a number of candidates who are vying to represent the new district.

Reach reporter Adam Kramer by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 157.

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