Dromm bumps Sears in Council primary

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This educator’s performance earned him more than an apple.

Jackson Heights teacher and activist Daniel Dromm unseated City Councilwoman Helen Sears (D-Jackson Heights) in a spirited Democratic primary election, cutting short her hopes for a third term in office.

Dromm took 49.2 percent of the vote, while Sears won 39.6 percent, according to preliminary numbers from the city Board of elections. Immigration lawyer Stanley Kalathara came in third with 11.3 percent of the vote. A total of 6,473 people voted in the race, according to the BOE. The Dromm campaign said the figures were in the ballpark of their expectations.

Dromm now goes on to face Republican Mujib Rahman in the November general election.

“I’m ecstatic,” Dromm said in a phone interview Tuesday night. “A victory with this wide of a margin against an incumbent candidate, it just makes you feel so good.”

Sears conceded the race around 11 p.m.

“We congratulate Danny on his victory,” she said in a statement. “He ran an energetic campaign. It has been an honor to represent the residents of the 25th District and we wish them nothing but the best.”

Dromm said his plans for the rest of the week are modest.

“I’m going back to school on Thursday to teach,” he said, noting he will continue his classroom work until December. “I need the income.”

Dromm focused his campaign on depicting Sears as less than effective during her two terms and on his knowledge of education issues from two decades as a public educator. Dromm’s detractors struck anonymously during the race, circulating copies of his 1972 arrest on Long Island on prostitution charges, but the news was not enough to derail the campaign. Dromm has said police targeted him for kissing his boyfriend in public.

Dromm, 53, was born in Rego Park, but his family moved to Long Island when he was 6. He came out as a gay man to his mother at age 17. He lived in Jackson Heights from 1981-89 before moving to Flushing. He returned to Jackson Heights in 2002.

Dromm went to Marist College in Poughkeepsie. When he could not find a job in journalism after graduating, he decided to earn his master’s degree in education from the City University of New York. He started his teaching career at a Harlem day care center in 1978 and joined the city school system in 1984.

Dromm emerged as an activist in 1992 when the school board president of District 24 commented that there were no gay teachers in the district as part of a protest against the new Rainbow Curriculum. Dromm, a teacher in the district, publicly announced he was gay.

Dromm also helped found the Queens Pride Parade in 1992. He said seeing the turnout of elected officials at the parade was the impetus for him to seek office. He won election to a Democratic district leader seat in 2002.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

Updated 6:29 pm, October 10, 2011
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