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Como leads by 70 votes in Council special election

Republican Anthony Como led Democrat Elizabeth Crowley by a mere 70 votes in the special election to replace Councilman Dennis Gallagher after all precincts had reported their numbers Tuesday night, a spokeswoman with the city's Elections Board said.

The board will recount all voting machines Friday as well as tally all absentee ballots on the following Tuesday, the spokeswoman said. The board's commissioner will then certify the election after all votes have been counted, she said.

But Como, an aide to state Sen. Serphin Maltese (R-Glendale) and commissioner with the Elections Board, said he was confident he would win the election.

"We know there are paper ballots out there, but I'm confident they will follow the trend of the voting machines," he said Tuesday night. "I promise to deliver on my message to put Queens first."

District 30 covers Maspeth, Middle Village, Ridgewood, Glendale and slivers of Richmond Hill, Woodhaven and Forest Hills.

According to the Elections Board, Como received 2,352 votes in the election, while Crowley, a cousin of U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) who ran against Gallagher in 2001, got 2,282 votes.

Republican Thomas Ognibene, a former councilman and 2005 mayoral candidate, captured 2,031 votes, while Ridgewood civic leader Charles Ober received 752 votes, according to the board.

The race followed Gallagher's resignation in April as part of a deal that kept him out of prison after he pleaded guilty to sexually abusing a 52-year-old Middle Village woman at his district office in July 2007.

Voters at the polls said experience was the most important factor in choosing their candidate. Maria Pasini, an 18-year Middle Village resident, voted for Como.

"I thought he had the most experience and I thought we needed fresh blood," she said after casting her vote at Middle Village's PS 128. "I liked him better than Ognibene."

William Johnsen, a retired bus driver from Middle Village, said he chose Ognibene because he had responded to complaints from constituents during his previous tenure in office.

"I think it's great when you can go to politicians to make suggestions and they follow up on it," he said.

Jean Oldenburg, a Ridgewood resident who voted at PS 88, said she cast her ballot for Crowley because of her family's history of service.

"I think she is going to be good," she said. "She has been around and her entire family has been in politics for years."

The race was short but contentious, as the candidates took shots at one another's ability to lead. Ober and Ognibene complained that their respective county parties had not shown their campaigns support, but instead threw their weight behind Crowley and Como.

A total of $178,374 in public funds was distributed by the city's Campaign Finance Board to Como and Ognibene in May, a spokesman for the agency said.

Ober did not qualify for matching funds because he had not raised enough money, while Crowley could not take part in the program because she was still paying off a $56,267 fine for exceeding spending limits during her 2001 bid, the spokesman said.

The winner will hold the seat through the end of the year. A second election will be held in November to determine who will fill the seat in 2009 and a third election will take place in November of that year. The same winner of the next two elections may run for one more four-year term in 2011.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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