Katz grabs council seat with resounding victory

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Melinda Katz romped over four candidates in the race to replace term-limited City Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills). The overwhelming victory enables Katz to return as an elected official to the area she served in the state Assembly from 1994-98.

With 100 percent of the precincts reporting, Katz, the director of community boards for Borough President Claire Shulman, received 66 percent of the vote in the race to replace Koslowitz, who was elected to serve District 29 in April 1992.

Katz’s closest competitor, Republican Rene Lobo, garnered 30 percent of the vote. Conservative Norbert Chwat got 2 percent, while Green Jeanette Evans and the Independence Party’s Joseph Tiraco received 1 percent, unofficial results showed.

Reached late Tuesday night, when 11 percent of the precincts had reported and she was ahead by a wide margin, Katz said she was pleased voters had chosen to elect her to office again.

“If the official results are that I gained the majority, I’m very fortunate to be back in office,” she said. “I look forward to working with the new mayor and all the other new elected officials for the challenege we face in rebuilding the city.”

District 29 covers Forest Hills, Kew Gardens, Rego Park and parts of Maspeth, much of the area Katz represented as an assemblywoman for five years before she stepped aside in 1998 to run for the congressional seat previously held by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). Katz lost that election to U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills) by fewer than 500 votes.

As an assemblywoman, Katz wrote the law requiring HMOs to provide women direct access to gynecological care without forcing them to first see a primary care physician. She also authored laws protecting victims of spousal and child abuse and became recognized as a strong advocate of abortion rights.

In the race for the seat to be vacated by Koslowitz, Katz was buoyed by the endorsements of both the borough president and the Queens Democratic Organization.

She also outspent her four opponents combined by nearly four times, according to the candidates’ latest filings with the Campaign Finance Board. As of Oct. 26, Katz had spent $119,311 on her council campaign, which included commercials that were aired on cable news station NY 1.

Katz’s victory means she will lead the district that includes some of the most perilous stretches of Queens Boulevard, where 74 people have been killed since 1993, some of the borough’s most crowded schools and a large senior population. Katz and her opponents consistently addressed those three issues while campaigning.

But since Sept. 11, the focus of the race for Koslowitz’s seat shifted to safety and security. Though Katz said issues that were important to the district before Sept. 11 such as education and senior services remain important, she acknowledged that new concerns now face her constituents.

“There is an uneasiness I don’t think we’re going to get past,” she said. “Any council member coming into office now should be able to deal with the safety aspect of the city and the economic issue of rebuilding our city.”

In a year when term limits are forcing many experienced council members out of office, Katz believes her seasoning in government with the state Assembly will be an asset to an inexperienced City Council faced with unprecedented challenges.

Reach reporter Daniel Massey by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.

Posted 7:28 pm, October 10, 2011
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