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Crowded field vies for western Queens City Council seats

The extension of term limits may has changed the political landscape when it comes to the 2009 city elections, but it has not deterred dozens of potential candidates from pursuing their campaigns for Queens’ 14 City Council seats.

More than three dozen Queens residents are actively raising funds for campaigns for Council seats across the borough, according to biannual filing reports released by the city Campaign Finance Board last week.

But although all 14 Queens Council seats will be up for election this year, the political scene is far different than it was at this time last year. The approval of a third term for city officials and a handful of special elections have turned what was a straightforward election into a chess match for potential candidates.

In western Queens, both Councilman Eric Gioia (D−Sunnyside) and Councilwoman Melinda Katz (D−Forest Hills) are mounting campaigns for citywide office, thus leaving their seats vacant for 2010.

A crowded pack of candidates is already forming in the effort to replace Gioia, who is expected to run for public advocate. Deirdre Feerick, Brent O’Leary, David Rosasco and Jimmy Van Bramer are each mounting active campaigns for the seat, according to the board.

Feerick leads the group through January, having raised $43,585 for her campaign, filings show. Trailing her fund−raising efforts are Van Bramer with $30,060, O’Leary with $18,602 and Rosasco with $2,782.

Despite the fact that all 14 incumbents are free to run for another term, only two who would have been term−limited out of office — Peter Vallone Jr. (D−Astoria) and Helen Sears (D−Jackson Heights) — have indicated they plan to do so. Councilman Tom White (D−South Ozone Park) and recently elected Elizabeth Crowley (D−Middle Village) are also expected to run to retain their seats, but did not face term limits.

Vallone, who had initially planned a run for borough president before Helen Marshall announced her intent to run for a third term, faces a challenge in Costas Contrantines, who has raised $9,773, according to campaign filings.

Sears is likely to face a stiff challenge for her seat, with District Leader Daniel Dromm, former Sears staffer Alfonso Quiroz and Jackson Heights Attorney Stanley Kalathara each mounting well−funded campaigns thus far.

According to campaign filings, Dromm leads the pack, having raised more than $76,021, closely followed by Quiroz with $61,358 and Kalathara with $22,911. Former state Sen. John Sabini has said he is also weighing a run for the seat.

While no one outside of the incumbent Crowley has declared a candidacy for the District 30 Council seat, White’s control of the District 28 seat will face a challenge from Lynn Nunes, who has raised $15,832, campaign filings show.

The recently vacated seats of now−state Sens. Hiram Monserrate (D−East Elmhurst) and Joseph Addabbo (D−Howard Beach) will also be up for election in November, but will be filled first by a special election this February.

For more information on campaign finance disclosure reports, visit www.nyccfb.info.

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e−mail at sstirling@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 138.

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