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Ognibene in, Como out in Council seat race

The race for the City Council seat currently held by Elizabeth Crowley (D−Middle Village) heated up last week as former Councilman Anthony Como dropped out of the race and former Council Minority Leader Tom Ognibene took up the mantle for Republicans hoping to win back the seat.

Ognibene, an attorney with an office in Ridgewood, said he held off on officially declaring his candidacy for his old Council seat until the Queens Republican Party endorsed a mayoral candidate.

“The Republican Party came to me and said, ‘If we decide not to endorse Mr. Bloomberg ... would you be available to run, because we do not want to not have a candidate in the mayoral race,’” Ognibene said. “I said of course.”

When the Queens Republican Party decided to back Michael Bloomberg, Ognibene was free to challenge Crowley and Como bowed out.

“He said, ‘Tom, I certainly wouldn’t be challenging you and I look forward to you running,’” Ognibene said of Como’s decision to stay on the sidelines. “He’s moving on with his life in a different direction.”

An anonymous source close to the Como campaign said he dropped out to accept an appointment by the Bloomberg administration to a spot in a city agency, likely to be the Department of Housing. Como will formally announce the appointment after the vetting process is completed, the source said.

Crowley’s office had no comment by press time on the changing shape of the race.

Ognibene said he would focus his campaign on his own record as a city legislator, noting he would support Bloomberg’s policies.

“I have the experience and leadership in these trying times to assist the mayor,” Ognibene said. “That’s my message. I’m not going to be out there trying to attack Ms. Crowley. I think she has to stand on whatever record she has established over the past half year.”

Ognibene held the 30th District Council seat, which covers Glendale, Maspeth, Middle Village and Ridgewood, from 1992 to 2001. He was replaced by his former chief of staff, Dennis Gallagher, in 2001.

Ognibene unsuccessfully challenged Bloomberg in the 2005 city elections, being dropped from the ballot when Bloomberg’s campaign challenged his petition signatures.

He previously appeared on the political radar in 2008 when he campaigned in a special election for the seat Gallagher vacated as part of a plea deal that kept him out of jail on charges of sexually assaulting a woman in his office. Republican leaders, including then−state Sen. Serphin Maltese, backed Como in that race.

Ognibene finished third in the June 2008 election behind Como and Crowley. Como, a former Queens County prosecutor and Maltese aide, then lost to Crowley in November’s general election.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e−mail at jewalsh@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 154.

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