White seat attracts big names

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A dozen people, ranging from familiar names to political newcomers, have officially declared their candidacies for the November special election to succeed late Democratic City Councilman Tom White, who died of lung cancer last month.

Nicole Paultre-Bell, a Far Rockaway resident who has become civically active since the police shooting death of her fiancée, Sean Bell, is perhaps the candidate with the most name recognition, even though she does not live in the district.

The district covers Jamaica, South Ozone Park, Rochdale Village and Richmond Hill.

Paultre-Bell has until Election Day — Nov. 2 — to move into the district in order to run for the seat.

She and the other candidates also have to amass 899 signatures to qualify for a spot on the ballot.

Lynn Nunes, who came within a handful of votes of ousting White last year, also informed the city Campaign Finance Board that he would be a candidate this time around. Nunes is also battling state Sen. Shirley Huntley (D-Jamaica) for her seat in Tuesday’s primary.

Richmond Hill attorney Albert Baldeo is another special election candidate. Baldeo ran for the Council seat five years ago when the race took a nasty turn, with him accusing rival Robby Mahadeo of threatening to kill his family if he did not drop out to Mahadeo claiming Baldeo pulled a gun on him.

Former Councilman Allan Jennings, whom White replaced eight years ago, is running in the special election to retain his old seat.

Jennings is infamous in the district after being censured by the Council for sexually harassing staffers. He also has bad blood with another special election contender: former Huntley chief of staff Ruben Wills, who also ran in last year’s primary against White.

Jennings could not be reached for comment.

Wills allegedly punched a volunteer for Jennings at the city Board of Elections office following an argument over the counting of petition signatures last year.

Wills could not be reached for comment.

Besides Baldeo, another candidate for the seat from five years ago has made a repeat appearance — Jamaica Imam Charles Bilal.

Bilal could not be reached for comment.

Other candidates for the special election include Nunes’ sister, Elaine Nunes; Sikh Cultural Society Chairman Harpreet Singh Toor; Richmond Hill Business Improvement District President Vishnu Mahadeo; Jamaica accountant Joseph Marthone; and attorney Hettie Powell.

Jennings is the only candidate who indicated he would not be accepting matching funds from the CFB.

Jamaica NAACP President Leroy Gadsden was on the CFB’s list of candidates, but told TimesLedger Newspapers he is not running.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4573.

Updated 6:20 pm, October 10, 2011
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