Poll turnout light as Queens candidates make last pitches

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Photo gallery

Bing Yui Lam of Bayside casts his vote. Photo by Christina Santucci
Jerry Iannece and wife Lynn arrive at PS 31 to vote. Photo by Christina Santucci
Nily Rozic votes at PS 154 in Fresh Meadows. Photo by Christina Santucci
A ballot in Fresh Meadows features Assembly candidates Nily Rozic and Jerry Iannece. Photo by Christina Santucci
Ron Kim and his fiancee Alison Tan visit the Korean American Senior Center in Flushing.
State Sen. Toby Stavisky greets Muho Kim. Photo by Christina Santucci

Queens voters went to the polls Thursday under clear skies to cast their ballots in several hard-fought primaries that prompted some candidates to turn up the rhetoric in the final days of their campaigns.

Turnout was spotty across the borough with reports of more than 100 votes cast at one polling site in Glendale late Thursday morning but only 23 ballots counted around the same time at a site in Ozone Park.

At stake was the Republican slot for the state Senate seat in the 15th District, where Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) is facing lawyer Juan Reyes and Forest Hills resident Joseph Tiraco. In recent days, the race was rocked by a flier distributed by Reyes accusing Ulrich and his wife of having dinner with a gay councilman and his partner.

Ulrich, who voted at PS 63 in Ozone Thursday morning, denounced the mailer as “outrageous and despicable.”

He added, “The people I talk to say this is the lowest they’ve ever seen — particularly in a primary.”

A spokesman for Reyes defended the flier Wednesday, saying it was meant to show Ulrich as a flip-flopper on the gay marriage issue.

Former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani endorsed Ulrich the day before the primary.

The winner of the contest will square off against Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach).

In Flushing, the seven Asian candidates ratcheted up their campaigns for the 40th Assembly District seat that will be vacated by Democrat Grace Meng, who is running for Congress.

Downtown Flushing came alive with bilingual campaign posters for the various candidates on sidewalks and stickers pasted on the back of cars for Democrat Myungsuk Lee. Translators were in much demand at the polls.

Democrat Ethel Chen and her supporters struggled to keep her sign upright. Republican Phil Gim had one sign on Sanford Avenue.

Democrat Ron Kim, another contender, addressed a crowd at the Korean American Senior Center in Flushing and his fiancée translated his remarks into Chinese to cover all the bases.

Several of the Assembly candidates said turnout early in the day was light.

Downtown Flushing also had a prominent role in the contentious standoff between state Sen. Toby Stavisky (R-Whitestone) and Democratic challenger John Messer for the 16th Senate District.

Messer’s wife, who is Chinese, stopped potential voters to urge them to vote for her husband. Messer said the heaviest turnout appeared to be in Flushing, with fewer voters going to the polls in Rego Park and Oakland Gardens.

In northeast Queens newcomer Nily Rozic, running for the state Assembly against Community Board 11 Chairman Jerry Ianecce, raised some eyebrows with campaign literature she put out that pictured herself with Meng. Making a clear pitch for the women’s vote, the flier said “let’s elect another strong woman.”

The only problem is that Meng had already endorsed Ianecce.

Meng, who beat out three other opponents in a highly competitive race for the Democratic nomination for Congress in June, found herself on many state candidates’ campaign material whether authorized or not.

“It’s no surprise the candidates are trying to align themselves with Grace Meng,” said Austin Finan, Meng’s spokesman. “Grace appeals to a diverse group of voters and has tremendous support throughout the borough.”

In western Queens, Assemblyman Michael Miller’s (D-Woodhaven) re-election bid for the 38th Assembly District appeared to pique voter interest as he faced Etienne David Adorno at the polls. There was a steady and robust stream of voters visiting the PS 91 site in Glendale Thursday morning.

“I’m very confident,” Miller said of his chances after he voted at PS 91. “The voters know I represent them and will continue to do so.”

In southeast Queens there were problems at PS 80 in RochdaleVillage, where poll workers said some voters were told they had the wrong site even in case of some couples, where the husband was listed at one site and the wife at another, according to Irish Shamery, a poll inspector.

Rochdale Village is known as a stronghold for state Sen. Shirley Huntley (D-Jamaica), who is fighting off a stiff challenge from Councilman James Sanders (D-Laurelton) in her bid for re-election to the 10th Senate District seat. Gian Jones also is on the Democratic ballot.

Voters appeared sharply divided into two camps over Huntley, who was indicted in late August on charges of interfering with the state attorney general’s investigation into an allegedly scheme to bilk taxpayer dollars through her nonprofit. She had some strong and vocal supporters at polls in her district, while a number of voters said they were casting their ballots for Sanders.

“Different times bring about a change,” said Rev. B. Smith, who was voting in Rochdale Village.

By 5:30 p.m. at PS 80 more than 400 votes had been compiled, but an estimated 2,000 people had showed up to vote, with many presumably turned away, according to poll workers.

Elsewhere in southeast Queens, more voters appeared to favor state Assemblywoman Barbara Clark (D-Queens Village), who is running for her 14th term against Clyde Vanel, who has challenged her before for the 33rd Assembly seat, which covers Bellerose, Queens Village, Cambria Heights, St. Albans and Hollis.

Clark seemed to benefit from stronger voter recognition because she has held the seat for so many years.

Both candidates were upset over changes to polling locations in the district, which created voter confusion.

Voter turnout seemed to be the highest in at Andrew Jackson HS and PS/MS 147 in Cambria Heights.

Updated 11:11 am, September 14, 2012
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