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Wills captures City Council seat

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Ruben Wills won the special election to fill the Council seat held by Thomas White with a modest lead over Nicole Paultre-Bell, unofficial election results from New York 1 said.

With 100 percent of the precincts reporting, the longtime activist and political aide had about 31.2 percent of the total vote with 3,347 votes in the election for the District 28 seat, according to NY 1. Paultre-Bell, the fiancée of police shooting victim Sean Bell, had roughly 25.3 percent of the total with 2,721 residents choosing her at the polls, the station reported.

Albert Baldeo came in third with 1,512 votes, or about 14.1 percent, followed by former Councilman Allan Jennings, with 1,068 votes, or 9.95 percent; Charles Bilal, with 925 votes, or 8.6 percent; Harpreet Toor with 728 votes, or 6.8 percent; and Martha Butler with 436 votes, or 4.1 percent, according to NY 1.

The city’s Board of Elections said there were problems at polling stations in southeast Queens, which delayed the count for the election.

In other southeast Queens races, state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans) won his bid for another term in Albany with 17,801 votes, roughly 74.1 percent of the total, and defeated GOP opponent Samuel Benoit, who had 5,089 votes, or about 21.2 percent of the total, and Conservative candidate Everly Brown, who had 1,146 votes, or 4.8 percent, according to NY 1. Only 72 percent of the precincts reported their results, NY 1 said.

State Sen. Shirley Huntley (D-Jamaica) and state Assembly members William Scarborough (D-St. Albans), Barbara Clark (D-Queens Village), Michelle Titus (D-Far Rockaway) and Vivian Cook (D-Jamaica) all ran opposed in the general election and will be serving another term in Albany this January.

Wills, who was supported by state Huntley and City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), said he was positive that he would pull through to capture the seat.

“I look forward to working with the diverse neighborhoods of the 28th Council District to address the challenges we face together,” he said in a statement.

Paultre-Bell, who was backed by U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) and Councilman James Sanders (D-Laurelton), could not be reached for comment.

Wills’s backers said he had proven himself for years during his work with Huntley and Comrie as well as community groups.

“I like that he lives in the community and has been part of the community for years,” said voter Evelyn Rucker, 40, after she cast her ballot at August Martin HS.

Voters choosing Paultre-Bell, who had to move into the district last month, said her fresh face in southeast Queens politics gave them confidence in putting their trust behind her campaign.

“I figured she’s new so they didn’t have a chance to corrupt her,” said Bernie Williams, a 59-year-old voter from Jamaica.

But others thought that her naivete would hinder her from getting positive results for the neighborhood.

“She has a reason, she has a cause, but we need a leader who knows what to do,” said Abigail Thomas, 22, who voted for Wills.

The special non-partisan election was held following White’s death in August. Seven candidates from all over the district, which includes the neighborhoods of Jamaica, South Ozone Park, Richmond Hill and Rochdale Village, threw their hats into the ring following the election’s announcement.

The large number of candidates on the ballot and the short time they had to get their message out on the streets made some voters a little confused about whom to choose.

“I was interested in the race, but I didn’t have any of the histories on them,” said a Jamaica voter who would only identify herself as Johnnise.

The 38-year-old said she ultimately omitted that race on her ballot.

“I would have made a choice, but I didn’t see them do anything for the community,” she said.

The winner will serve a term that lasts until Dec. 31, 2011 and will have to face another election next year to retain the Council seat.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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