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Queens Democratic Party snubs incumbent Jennings

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The Queens Democratic Party snubbed City Councilman Allan Jennings (D-Jamaica) in his quest for re-election after one term and threw its weight behind Community Board 12 District Manager Yvonne Reddick for the seat.

The party's decision to support Reddick in the September primary may be linked to some of Jennings' unusual actions since taking office in January 2002, including his purchase of two half-page newspaper advertisements highlighting his relationship with a Chinese-American woman.

But Jennings blamed the party's leadership and some state lawmakers for holding a grudge.

"The party leadership wants a puppet," Jennings said. "They want someone they can control. I'm not that guy."

The endorsement may be one of the first times in the Council's history that an incumbent did not get the party nod for a primary election, Jennings said.

He, along with the rest of the Council, is up for re-election due to changes in district boundaries, which were redrawn to reflect results of the 2000 Census. Council members usually serve four-year terms.

All other Democratic council incumbents in Queens were endorsed, and the party did not choose a candidate to challenge Councilman Dennis Gallagher (R-Middle Village), the only Republican council member from Queens, a Democratic Party staff member said.

Jennings was not endorsed by the Queens Democratic Party during his campaign in 2001, but he overcame his underdog position to win the primary and then the general election.

"The last time I ran I didn't get their endorsement and I won even though last time I didn't have a record," he said. "I have a good record in the Council. There's no issue that happens in my district that I'm not on top of."

Reddick, who has served as district manager of CB 12 since the mid-1990s, is counting on her record in the community as well as the party's support to unseat Jennings, she said.

"I have been serving the community for many, many years," she said. "I have a good working relationship with constituents in the district. I know the needs of the community."

Jennings has earned a reputation as a wild card since he assumed his council seat in January 2002. He placed ads in two Chinese-language newspapers earlier this year touting his love for the Chinese community and detailing his relationship with a Chinese-American folk dancer and his failed marriage to a Taiwanese woman.

Jennings drew the council speaker's wrath over his vote against the 18.5 percent property tax hike. The vote went against a compromise between the Republican mayor and the Democratic City Council and, as a result, Jennings was removed from his seat on the Finance Committee. He also came under attack for releasing the names of undercover police officers at a council committee hearing he was chairing.

Jennings' unorthodox ways may have been among the reasons the party did not endorse him, said Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans).

"There has always been animus between Allan and the leadership of the Democratic party," Comrie said.

Tom Manton, president of the Queens Democratic Party, did not return calls for comment.

Jennings also said some of his fellow lawmakers, especially in Albany, were upset he was making them look bad by opening his office later and by going to the subway station during the morning rush hour to talk with his constituents, he said.

"They said I'm making them look like they're not working," Jennings said of the lawmakers, whom he declined to name. "I'm doing things that are excelling my constituents' expectations."

And while Reddick has the support of the Democratic Party, taking on a sitting councilman is a large task, she said.

"Of course, facing an incumbent is challenging," Reddick said. "You can never take anything for granted. I know it's going to be a lot of hard work, but I'm looking forward to the challenge."

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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