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3 fellow Dems confront Wills in Council race

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Voters in southeast Queens will be heading back to the polls Tuesday in the first step to determine who will be their City Hall representative for the next two years and the men who are vying for the spot are sparing no expense for the seat, according to campaign finance records.

City Councilman Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica) will be facing off against three candidates for the Democratic nod in the special election for the 28th Council District, which includes the neighborhoods of Jamaica, South Ozone Park, Rochdale Village and Richmond Hill.

Former Councilman Allan Jennings, Rochdale Village board member Clifton Stanley Diaz and community activist Michael Duvalle are the other candidates who will be on the ballot, according to the city Board of Elections.

Wills, 40, was elected to office during a special election last year that decided who would fill the seat that was vacated by Tom White, who died less than a year into his second four-year term. As part of the rules for the special election, Wills had to run again during the 2011 election cycle to keep his seat for the remainder of the term.

There are no Republican candidates listed for the general election.

Despite being in the spotlight recently for a 15-year-old misdemeanor case in Manhattan Criminal Court and another misdemeanor case in Nassau County Criminal Court, Wills has received numerous endorsements and financial backing for his run.

Several Council members, including Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) and Councilwoman Karen Kozlowitz (D-Forest Hills), have supported Wills along with several unions, such as the United Federation of Teachers and SEIU Local 1199.

Campaign finance records show that he has collected $45,335 in donations for his campaign and received $76,465 in public funds. Wills has spent $71,147 on his re-election so far, according to campaign finance records.

Jennings, who served in the Council from 2002-06, is taking his third shot at returning to the seat. The former elected official, who was censured by the Council on sexual harassment charges, had vied for the seat during the 2009 Democratic primary and last year’s special election, but had back-to-back losses.

Jennings has collected $79,991 for his campaign, but $67,000 of that money came from loans, according to campaign finance records, and he is not receiving public funds. The challenger has spent $8,139 for his campaign, records show.

Diaz has not formally made a run for office prior to this election, but he has said that his years as a member of Rochdale Village’s board of directors and as a lifelong activist in southeast Queens would make him an ideal candidate. Diaz has collected $16,695 for his run and has spent $17,456, according to campaign finance records.

Duvalle is the fourth candidate in the race. Duvalle is a U.S. Navy veteran who worked as a small business owner and was president of the Rockaway Merchant Association, according to his campaign website.

The father of two, a lifelong resident of southeast Queens, has raised $1,364 and only spent $813 for his campaign, according to campaign finance records.

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

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