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Mayor sets date for southeast Queens special election

Candidates in southeast Queens are gearing up for next month's special election to fill the seat vacated by former Councilman James Sanders (c.), shown celebrating after his Democratic primary victory for state Senate. Alan Jennings (directly behind Sanders) and Donovan Richards (right of Jennings) are running for the seat.
TimesLedger Newspapers

While candidates planning to run for City Council seats in November are just starting to pick out color schemes for lawn signs, campaigns to represent the southeastern-most neighborhoods of Queens are in full swing ahead of a special election next month.

Civic-minded hopefuls started seriously eyeing the District 31 seat covering Rosedale, Laurelton, Springfield Gardens and Far Rockaway in May when then-Councilman James Sanders announced he would challenge state Sen. Shirley Huntley.

Sanders’ Chief of Staff Donovan Richards, maybe on some insider information, had already opened a campaign to replace his boss in March. Earnest Flowers — a Laurelton resident who works as a community liaison in state Assemblyman William Scarborough’s (D-Jamaica) office — and Rosedale attorney Jacques Leandre threw their hats into the race over the summer.

And by the time Sanders defeated Huntley in the September primary, the race was already full steam ahead.

Sanders officially left the Council at the end of December and last week Mayor Michael Bloomberg set Feb. 19 as the date for the special election.

At least two civic groups have already scheduled forums to hear the candidates out. The Rosedale Civic Association has scheduled a candidates forum for Jan. 24 at PS 125 and the Federated Blocks of Laurelton plans to hold one Feb. 7 at St. Luke Cathedral in Laurelton.

“We want to give the residents of Rosedale a chance to talk with them and find out what are their plans to help build the community,” said Rosedale Civic President Marcia O’Brien.

Voters who are not yet registered have until Feb. 9 to do so, and the candidates have until midnight Jan. 15 to collect the 1,350 signatures required to get on the ballot.

As of Wednesday, former Councilman Alan Jennings and Selvena Brooks, a spokeswoman for the Service Employees International Union who spent about eight years working for Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Hollis), had filed their signatures with the city Board of Elections.

Michael Duncan, who was Sanders’ chief of staff for nearly two terms before the two had a falling out and unsuccessfully challenged his boss back in 2009, is also in the race.

This is probably not the last time voters will see these names. The winner of the special election will serve out the rest of Sanders’ term until Dec. 31. Normal primary and general elections will be held for the seat later this year.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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