Queens gears up for presidential primary

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As Tuesday's presidential primary approaches, the Queens Democratic machine and small but significant Republican Party in the borough will have a chance to tip the scales toward their candidates of choice.

Under the New York state primary guidelines, only registered members of a party will be eligible to vote in that party's primary election, according to Naomi Bernstein, spokeswoman for the New York City Board of Elections.

Democratic voters will have a choice between former New Jersey Senator Bill Bradley and Vice President Al Gore and, in some congressional districts, Lyndon LaRouche.

On the Republican ballot are Texas Gov. George Bush, Arizona Senator John McCain and, in some districts, Steve Forbes and Alan Keyes.

Polls will be open on Tuesday from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

New York uses a delegate system, so voters must choose the names of party members who plan to vote for a given candidate at the party's nominating convention. The delegates' names are listed with the candidate's name they support on the ballot.

Each Republican candidate will have up to four delegates listed on the ballot, and each Democratic candidate will have up to five delegates listed.

Delegates for candidates who drop out of the race may be elected to attend the party conventions as uncommitted delegates, Bernstein said.

Queens County has more than 600,000 registered Democrats, and more than half of them voted for the Bill Clinton-Al Gore ticket in 1996. As Gore sets his sights on the New York primary, he will have the backing of the Queens Democratic machine.

His challenger, Bill Bradley, has attracted some of the dissident voices in Queens Democratic politics, however. City Councilman Walter McCaffrey (D-Woodside), who is challenging U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) in the Democratic congressional primary, has thrown his weight behind Bradley.

On a campaign appearance in Astoria last week, Bradley supporters also included members of the Aldos Democratic Club, a group of Astoria Democrats who broke away from the leadership of City Council Speaker Peter Vallone (D-Astoria), the area's most prominent Democrat.

Neither Bush nor McCain has made any campaign stops in Queens yet, but with more than 162,000 registered Republicans, Queens has more members of the Grand Old Party than any other borough in the city.

In other states, McCain has benefited from the support of Democrats and Independents who are permitted to vote in the Republican primary, but in New York only Republicans may vote in the party primary.

State Sen. Serphin Maltese (R-Middle Village), the Queens County Republican chairman and a Bush delegate, said the recent controversy over Bush's appearance at Bob Jones University, an institution that bans interracial dating and denounces Catholicism, may not necessarily hurt Bush's chances in Queens.

"I think it's shocking those things they say about Catholics," said Maltese, who is a devout Catholic. "But it's a political attack. It's not something that has any merit to it."

City Councilman Tom Ognibene (R-Middle Village), Republican leader on the City Council, will also be listed on the ballot as a Bush delegate.

Voters registered as members of the Green Party will also be eligible to vote in the party's presidential primary. Vying for the Green Party nomination are Ralph Nader, Joel Kovel, Jello Biafra and Stephen Gaskin.

"For the Green Party, they will be voting on paper," Bernstein said.

Registered Independence and Liberal party voters are not eligible to vote in this election because their parties have not fielded presidential candidates.

Updated 10:26 am, October 12, 2011
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