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Antoine invests in bid for assembly seat

Republican Rolaine Antoine, a first-time candidate seeking to defeat Democratic incumbent Barbara Clark for a seat in the state Assembly, may be a political novice, but she hopes her expertise in finance could make a difference in Albany.

An associate at Weiss, Peck and Greer, a capital management firm, Antoine plans to invest in the future of southeastern Queens.

“I’ve talked to more than a thousand constituents, and they believe there is a time for change, and that the time is now,” Antoine said. “Barbara Clark has had an opportunity to do whatever she could do for the community.”

Clark was unavailable for an interview in the past 10 days despite repeated requests from the TimesLedger for its wrap-up of all the candidates running for assembly seats throughout the borough.

An eight-term incumbent, Clark represents the 33rd Assembly District, which covers Queens Village, Cambria Heights, St. Albans and Bellerose.

During an interview last week with Antoine, the Republican underdog addressed the issue of representative’s responsiveness to the people who elected them.

“Whenever a constituent calls a representative’s office with whatever issue, that needs to be taken seriously and addressed,” Antoine said. “That’s where it all starts: In the office’s ability to handle the needs of constituents and in how the representative deals with the issues. The call needs to be handled or forwarded, and then you’ll start seeing the change.”

The New York Red Book, a directory of state officials, includes biographical and legislative information on all assembly members. Many entries are little more than a half-page in length. Clark’s runs for nearly two pages.

    The Red Book includes information about Clark’s efforts to build a comprehensive system of health care; her success in “converting a failing Andrew Jackson High School into an impressive and progressive set of four magnet high schools;” her work to obtain adequate funding for the city’s schools; and her support of immigrants.

Antoine, a 38-year-old resident of Queens Village, has built a platform on her plans to address education reform, economic stimulation, crime and services for the elderly.

But Antoine’s chief concern is the quality of life experienced by the district’s residents.

“The most important issue is the restoration and improvement of quality of life in District 33,” she said.

Antoine said she would, if elected, try to ensure that noise is reduced; that departments serving the community are monitored; that streets become cleaner and traffic moves with more fluidity; that the sewage system is improved and water problems are solved; and that “gang infiltration and drug infestation” are alleviated.

Antoine’s civic experience stretches from children to the elderly. She has served as a youth services and community services director for a local church. She has established programs in mentorship, after-school care, education and employment. She also volunteered for three years as a night school teacher.

An active member in the district’s Haitian-American community, Antoine hopes her heritage will become a landmark instead of a liability.

“This is an ethnic group that is well represented in all areas and industries, but not in government,” she said. “There have been many assembly candidates, but there have never been any in office.”

History has taught Antoine that defeating an incumbent can be a tall order. Nonetheless, she believes she has a fighting chance at upsetting Clark.

“I’m very optimistic,” Antoine said. “I think we’re going to get a great turnout, and that the turnout is going to say, ‘We want Rolaine Antoine as our assembly person.’”

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

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