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Manton envisions Democrat as mayor in ‘06

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Queens County Democratic Leader Tom Manton said Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg's political future is in jeopardy following his support for property tax increases, steep education reductions and drastic cuts to the city's budget.

Manton, speaking at the Elmer Blackburne Regular Democratic Club in Laurelton last Thursday night, said he and his fellow district leaders are working to register the borough's immigrant population as members of the Democratic Party to ensure the party reclaims the mayoralty in 2006.

"By the time (Bloomberg) gets through this budget crisis, he is not going to look so good," Manton said. "We've got to make sure (immigrants) get into the system. You cannot beat getting people out to vote."

Bloomberg led the charge to increase city property taxes by 18.5 percent in November and last week announced $600 million in cuts to the city's budget. The mayor also detailed a contingency plan that could eliminate $1 billion in spending, which would lead to the closing of more than 30 firehouses and layoffs of over 10,000 city employees.

Borough officials have been putting pressure on legislators in Albany to help lessen the $3.8 billion city gap by introducing a new version of the commuter tax to raise revenues. In the meantime, Bloomberg has been criticized for the proposed cuts.

Manton, a district leader in the 37th Assembly district in Ridgewood, has led the Queens Democratic organization for 17 years, said he and the 71 other borough district leaders are making a push to make sure they win the next mayoral election. He said the keys to winning the next election are high turnout and good organization leading up to Election Day.

More than 40 people filled the crowded office where the club meets at 226-19 Merrick Blvd. to listen to Manton, who was the keynote speaker at the meeting.

Sidney Holmes, president of the Laurelton Local Development Corporation, also gave a presentation on his organization's attempt to secure a business improvement district for Merrick Boulevard.

State Assemblyman William Scarborough (D-St. Albans) gave a legislative briefing to members of the Democratic club.

Manton, a former congressman and city council member, was first elected as chairman of the Queens County Democratic Organization in 1986. He graduated from St. John's Law School and also served as a flight navigator in the U.S. Marine Corps and was a police officer in Harlem from 1955-1960.

Several people in attendance questioned Manton about voting problems during the last election and problems facing the borough's Democratic clubs. They complained that many people in the 29th Assembly District did not receive updated cards telling them their polling stations had moved because of the state redistricting process -- a problem, members said, led to many people being unable to cast votes.

Members also asked Manton about what to do to counteract the "aging" problem, or the lack of young members in political organizations, to foster the success of the Democratic Party. They wanted to see if the veteran legislators had any suggestions to reinvigorate Democratic clubs in Queens.

"We have not attracted young people as much as we would have liked," said Manton, who has led a drive to increase the Democratic party's membership list in Queens. "We all have political capital...and that's our vote."

Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156

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