Richards plans to replace Sanders

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Over the last eight years, Donovan Richards has moved his way up the political ladder under the guidance of City Councilman James Sanders (D-Laurelton) and now he is aiming for City Hall.

Richards announced that he will run to replace Sanders when the councilman’s third term ends in 2013, and he has started early work on his campaign. The 28-year-old chief of staff said he has been considering a serious run for the office for the last couple of months and he was ready to grab the torch from his mentor.

“We need to put this new generation in the forefront,” he said.

Sanders, who has been in office since 2002, will be term limited out of office in two years and has pledged his full support to Richards’ campaign. So far, no other candidate has officially announced his or her interest in the race for the 31st Council District, which includes the neighborhoods of Laurelton, Springfield Gardens, Far Rockaway, Arverne, Edgemere, Bayswater and parts of Cambria Heights and Ozone Park.

Richards said he would continue Sanders’ work to help solve the community’s biggest problems: violence and lack of programs for youth. The candidate said he is constantly out and about in the district and attends meetings with various groups to come up with solutions to the surge in shooting incidents in southeast Queens.

It was an act of violence that hit close to home and led to him to seek a career in politics.

In November 2003, Richards joined Sanders’ office while studying at Nyack College after his friend Darnell Patterson was murdered on the streets of Jamaica. The tragedy and a meeting with Sanders at an anti-gun event spurred the candidate to make a difference.

“When I lost my childhood friend to violence ... I decided I wanted to do something about this community,” he said.

By starting out as an aide and later moving up to a district manager, Richards said he gained a lot of insight from Sanders and his staff. He has worked with them on several issues, including the constant flooding problems during torrential rain storms, the construction of a hot sheets motel near Springfield Gardens High School and mosquito problems in the Rockaways.

“There is not a fight I have not been involved with,” he said.

In 2008, Richards ran against state Assemblywoman Michelle Titus (D-Far Rockaway) in that year’s Democratic primary, but lost to the incumbent. The candidate said the experience taught him to make connections early to avoid any roadblocks, such as petition signatures.

During the Assembly campaign, his signatures were challenged and he said he had to spend a lot of time away from the streets to resolve the issue.

“One of the things I’ve learned is that I have to work with different people from different walks of life. You don’t make the same mistake twice,” he said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4546.

Posted 2:08 pm, October 6, 2011
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