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In the wake of last week’s term limits vote, the fortunes of several of Queens’ political heavyweights may have changed in an instant. But while some elected officials are eyeing the comfort of a third term, others remain undaunted in their quest for higher office.
The City Council voted 29−22 in favor of extending term limits to three consecutive terms last Thursday in a vote that showed a deep division among the Queens delegation. Of the 14 Queens members, eight voted against extending term limits while six voted for it.
Though the issue was clearly polarizing, Councilman David Weprin (D−Hollis) said that with a looming financial crisis, the Council could not afford to hold grudges over the vote either with its own members or Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who proposed the extension.
“I hope that we all come together,” said Weprin, a staunch opponent of a third term for city officials. “There was a lot of divisiveness and arm twisting in both directions on this issue, and I hope we can move on and deal with other issues.”
A subsequent survey of the Queens elected officials conducted by TimesLedger showed that of the Queens Council two−term members who voted against the extension — Weprin, Tony Avella (D−Bayside), Joseph Addabbo (D−Howard Beach), John Liu (D−Flushing), Hiram Monserrate (D−East Elmhurst), James Gennaro (D−Fresh Meadows), Eric Gioia (D−Sunnyside) and Anthony Como (R−Middle Village) — all have plans to seek another office either for the state Senate in elections Tuesday or citywide offices in 2009.
Avella, who will pursue his long shot bid for mayor, criticized Bloomberg for proposing a bill he said disenfranchised the campaigns of dozens of individuals across the city who could now face powerful incumbents in their bid for election.
“I don’t want to say it was a fatal blow, but it was certainly a very dangerous blow to Democracy in this city,” Avella said. “[Bloomberg] has shown himself to be the most self−interested, crummy politician in city history.”
Liu said he believes political candidates should not have taken anything for granted when planning their runs for office, contending that the voters were the only ones unnecessarily harmed when the Council voted down an amendment to send the decision to a public referendum.
“The Mayor had all his ducks in a row long beforehand to ensure that he would get his way,” Liu said. “The council can and should be a more effective counterweight to the executive branch.”
Avella joins U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D−Forest Hills) in continuing their mayoral bids, while Weprin said he will seek the city comptroller seat, running against colleague Melinda Katz (D−Forest Hills) — so long as Comptroller Bill Thompson does not change his plans to run for mayor.
“Bill Thompson has said he’s running for mayor and I’m taking him at his word,” Weprin said.
Monserrate, Addabbo and Gennaro are all running for state Senate seats in Tuesday’s general election and all declined to comment on future plans if they do not win their races.
Liu said he will press on with his bid for citywide office and is expected to join the race for comptroller or public advocate, where he would likely oppose Gioia, who is widely expected to be eying the seat after incumbent Betsy Gotbaum announced Monday she would not seek re−election.
Avella said one winner in the term limits fight is the Queens Democratic Committee, which will probably see fewer Council members seek higher office and will not have its power structure shaken as a result.
“If term limits had been upheld, there would have been a major shift in borough party,” he said, noting that 13 of the 14 Queens Council members would have been term−limited out of office. “This actually helps them continue to be in power for another four years. Now they won’t have to worry as much about supporting one [Queens] candidate over another and also won’t have to spread their resources too thin.”
Of the six who voted for the extension — Katz, Peter Vallone (D−Astoria), Helen Sears (D−Jackson Heights), Leroy Comrie (D−St. Albans), Tom White (D−Jamaica) and James Sanders (D−Laurelton) — only Katz has said she would not consider running for another term in the Council.
Queens Borough President Helen Marhsall said she will run for a third term in office in 2009. Following the Council vote, Vallone, who had been weighing a run for borough president, said he will forgo those plans and seek a third term in the Council.
Sears and Comrie, meanwhile, said they remain undecided about running for a third term in the Council, but each defended their votes and the actions of the Council.
“The vote itself was a matter of conscience for each Council member, and as far as I’m aware, there was nothing improper about the way it was conducted,” Sears said. “I do not know what the speaker or mayor’s plans are going forward, but I do not believe that anyone will suffer negative consequences or reap unearned rewards because of how they voted.”
White was elected to his first term in 2005 and is expected to run for a second term in 2009. Councilman Anthony Como (R−Middle Village), who voted against extending term limits, won a special election in June after the resignation of Dennis Gallagher and faces another election challenge Tuesday from Democrat Elizabeth Crowley.
Sanders did not return calls for comment.
The TimesLedger staff contributed reporting to this article.
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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