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Jamaica pol, supporters decry ‘political lynching’

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The re-election campaign of Councilman Allan Jennings (D-Jamaica) is proving to be just as unpredictable as his nearly two years in office, with a handful of the maverick's supporters protesting outside State Supreme Court in Jamaica Monday as lawyers for the Queens Democratic machine challenged his petitions inside.

Jennings and his backers accused the Queens County Democratic Organization and the attorneys representing the party's choice, Yvonne Reddick, of trying to commit a "political lynching" by knocking Jennings off the ballot in the race for his own seat.

"They want to win the election without having an election," Jennings said. "There would be no one else in the primary or the general election. I feel disenfranchised."

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

The current race for the 28th Council District, which covers Jamaica, South Jamaica, Richmond Hill and Ozone Park, started with six hopeful candidates, making it one of the most crowded in the city, but challenges have reduced the list to two - Jennings and Reddick, a Democratic district leader and district manager of Community Board 12.

Reddick received the party nod in May over Jennings, making him one of the first city council incumbents not to get the machine's support in Queens, Jennings said.

The Queens County Democratic Organization has challenged about two-thirds of Jennings' signatures in a court proceeding that began July 30. About 30 of the 50 petition carriers who worked for Jennings have been subpoenaed to testify before Justice Janice Taylor about how they collected some 2,100 names out of the total 3,357 his campaign gathered, the councilman said. Candidates need 900 signatures to make the ballot.

"They're challenging all 2,100 signatures," he said of the Party lawyers. "They're fishing. They don't know what they're looking for."

Designating petitions for Stephen Jones, Garth Marchant and Inderjit Singh - all Democrats eying Jennings' seat - were invalidated by the Board of Elections, while Republican candidate Carolyn Younger-Nolan withdrew her bid in the face of challenges and said Monday that she would back Reddick.

Reddick could not be reached for comment on the case or her campaign.

Jones said he would not support Jennings because the councilman's campaign was the first to file a challenge against his petitions, Jones said.

"I am bitter at Allan," he said. "I didn't come after nobody; I felt nobody should come after me. I will not help him in his campaign."

Jennings blasted the county's Democratic Party for trying to eliminate him from the race through a court proceeding.

"Challenging signatures at the Board of Elections is fine, but now that they're coming to court when the board already put me on board, it makes no sense."

But Frank Bolz, a member of Reddick's legal team and a law partner of Queens Democratic boss Tom Manton, said Jennings himself challenged petitions filed by Jones and Singh.

"Allan Jennings took challenges against other candidates," Bolz said. "For him to claim people should not make challenges is ridiculous."

The freshman lawmaker has earned a reputation as a wild card since he assumed his council seat in January 2002.

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.

The councilman 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.

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

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