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Sabini weighing run for City Council seat

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Get ready, Jackson Heights. The already packed stable of candidates for the 25th Council District seat may soon get another distinguished contender.

Former state Sen. John Sabini, now chairman of the state Racing and Wagering Commission, is considering running for the Council seat he first occupied in 1989.

“It was always my plan to take a look at that seat in the year 2009,” Sabini said. “Term limits changed that a little. But at the same time, I am certainly looking at it and talking to people about it.”

Issues that Sabini said he would focus on if he ran include neighborhood cleanliness, development, transportation and education. The district covers Jackson Heights, East Elmhurst, Elmhurst, Corona and parts of Woodside and Forest Hills.

Sabini stepped down from his state Senate seat and joined Gov. David Paterson’s cabinet after failing to secure the backing of the powerful Queens Democratic Party in his 2008 re−election bid. That left the field open for Councilman Hiram Monserrate, who ran unopposed for the Senate post, but he was charged last month with a felony for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend.

If Sabini runs for the Council seat, he will face competition from sitting Councilwoman Helen Sears (D−Jackson Heights), who likely will run for a third term after Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s revision to the City Charter was approved by the Council in October.

Sears declined to comment on facing her predecessor in the Council.

“Right now I am focused on serving the needs and protecting the interests of the residents of the 25th District and the people of New York City, and I look forward to the opportunity to represent them in the future,” she said in a statement.

Sabini will also face Democratic District Leader Daniel Dromm, a prominent gay activist and school teacher; Stanley Kalathara, a Jackson Heights−based attorney and member of Community Board 3; Con Edison spokesman and former Sears deputy chief of staff Alfonso Quiroz; and Elmhurst resident Mujib Rahman, who previously served as president of the Bangladesh Society of New York.

Dromm was not certain how Sabini’s candidacy might affect the race, which will likely heat up as the November election nears.

“If they can raise money and if they can get their name on the ballot, then I take their candidacy seriously,” he said. “I don’t really know what Sabini’s going to do. I think some of the obstacles he faces are the same obstacles he faced for re−election with the state Senate seat. We’ll see.”

Sabini was arrested in Albany in October 2007 on suspicion of driving drunk. He later pleaded guilty to a lesser traffic charge, but his opponents used the incident to criticize him throughout the 2008 Senate race.

Sabini said that because of fund−matching rules of municipal elections, he can afford to watch the race a while longer before making a decision.

“My name recognition is very high in that district,” he said. “But right now I’m very happy doing the job I have.”

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

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