But in a borough where incumbents legislators rarely lose, Huntley's ceremony was noteworthy, marking her surprise victory over longtime state Sen. Ada Smith (D-Jamaica) in September in a Democratic primary."As a Democrat I'm happy to see this vacancy filled by another Democrat," said U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), who took over as the chairman of the Queens Democratic Organization following the death of longtime boss Thomas Manton in July. "I know she'll make a difference for her community."While it might not have been his intent, Crowley's comment was ironic. Huntley, in fact, took 85 percent of the vote against Republican Jereline Hunter in November's general election, which was never in doubt in one of the most reliably Democratic districts in New York City.The only question in the race was whether the seat would be filled by Smith or Huntley, both Democrats.In fact, Huntley overcame the Queens Democratic's organization's endorsement of Smith and unseated the 18-year Albany veteran, though the extent to which the Queens machine actively worked to elect Huntley has been privately questioned by political observers in the months since Huntley's election.But these questions were essentially rendered moot Saturday as Huntley was sworn-in as the newest member of a Democratic minority in the state Senate.U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), still basking in the glow of having orchestrated the Democratic takeover of Congress, was on hand along with Crowley and U.S. Reps. Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills) and Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica).Democratic members of the City Council and state Assembly also attended the York College event, where Huntley was recognized primarily for her previous work as an education advocate. "Shirley Huntley has been getting training for this all her adult life," Assemblyman William Scarborough (D-St. Albans) said Saturday. "Basically she's been doing it. The only difference is now she has the title and she'll get paid."Huntley defeated Smith by 297 votes in the Democratic primary. The race was unquestionably influenced by Smith's conviction on a charge of harassment days before the vote. The charges stemmed from an incident in March when Smith allegedly threw coffee in a the face of a staffer in her Albany office.Reach reporter Craig Giammona by e-mail at news@times
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