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Candidates line up to replace Sanders

Selvena Brooks and Allan Jennings are the first two candidates to get their names on the ballot for next month's special City Council election in southeast Queens. Seven others have filed with the city Board of Elections.
TimesLedger Newspapers

Two candidates have gotten their names on the ballot for next month’s special election to fill southeast Queens’ vacant City Council seat and seven others are waiting to be cleared by the city Board of Elections.

The Council hopefuls had until midnight Tuesday to collect and submit 1,350 signatures to get on the ballot for the Feb. 19 special election to fill the seat representing Far Rockaway, Rosedale, Laurelton and Springfield Gardens.

The District 31 seat was vacated at the end of December when state Sen. James Sanders (D-Jamaica) ascended to Albany after defeating incumbent Shirley Huntley back in September, setting up a competition in southeast Queens well ahead of the November elections.

Selvena Brooks, a spokeswoman for the SEIU union, and former Councilman Allan Jennings were the first to turn in their signatures more than a week early and have already been cleared by the BOE. Seven others turned in their petitions earlier this week.

“I think there are nine [candidates],” Brooks said of the crowded field, adding she and her team have been working to prepare for the accelerated election schedule since the summer. “We’ve been working and working hard.”

Brooks is running in the middle of the pack when it comes to fund-raising, having banked nearly $18,000 by the Jan. 11 cutoff, according to her disclosure statement with the city Campaign Finance Board.

That puts her in the mix with attorney Jacques Leandre ($24,000), who has the endorsement of the Elmer H. Blackburne Democratic Club, and Sanders’ former chief of staff, Michael Duncan ($22,000).

Those kinds of campaign bucks only qualify as second-tier, however, compared to Donovan Richards, who took over as Sanders’ chief of staff in 2009 after a falling out between the councilman and Duncan.

Richards has raised close to $69,000 and, on top of the nod from his boss, has picked up endorsements from the Working Families Party and the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1500.

Earnest Flowers, a community liaison in state Assemblyman William Scarborough’s (D-St. Albans) office has raised about $9,000, which puts him on par with Pesach Osina, a staffer in Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder’s (D-Ozone Park) office, who pulled in just shy of $8,000.

Saywalah Kesselly, president of the African Center for Community, has filed as a small campaign, according to a spokesman with the finance board, meaning he does not have to itemize if his contributions and expenditures add up to less than $8,250.

Community Board 8 District Manager Marie Adam-Ovide did not file with the board, the spokesman said.

It can take up to nine days for the BOE to clear a candidate’s signatures and put his or her name on the ballot. Whoever wins next month’s election will serve out the rest of Sanders’ term until Dec. 31.

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

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