There appears to be no shortage of people vying for the seat vacated by the late City Councilman Tom White Jr., but you would never know it because the majority of them haven’t made a peep about their campaigns or their plans for the community. With the election a little over a month away, one can’t help but wonder — what are they waiting for?
Ten candidates have filed the necessary paperwork to receive matching funds for the race, according to the city’s Campaign Finance Board, but so far only two of them have officially launched their campaigns — Ruben Wills and Albert Baldeo.
“The community needs an advocate and a leader to step up so that they can receive the proper representation,” Baldeo told the Chronicle Tuesday. “Over the years I have built relationships with everyone from the mayor to the governor, from the speaker to the Senate majority leader.
This is not the first time Baldeo, an attorney from Ozone Park, has run for political office. Baldeo lost a Democratic primary challenge to White in the 2005 and was defeated again the following year in a Senate race against Serphin Maltese.
Wills told constituents outside his campaign office Monday that his first priority would be “jobs, jobs, jobs,” followed by healthcare, economic development, youth programs and seniors [see separate story].
Even before White’s funeral, rumors began swirling that Nicole Paultre Bell, fiancee of police shooting victim Sean Bell, who has no political experience and lives outside the district, was going to compete.
Valerie Bell, the mother of Sean Bell, recently told the Chronicle that Nicole had started collecting signatures, but so far no official announcement has come from the candidate herself. Paultre Bell lives in Far Rockaway and would have to move into the district by Election Day and get 899 signatures in order to run.
One of the most obvious candidates for White’s seat and the person everyone had suspected would run is Richmond Hill real estate broker Lynn Nunes, who came within a few votes of defeating White last year.
Nunes suffered a crushing loss to state Sen. Shirley Huntley two weeks ago, but a council seat may prove to be more obtainable since he has built a reputation as an up and coming leader in the district. He and his sister Elaine have both applied for matching funds. Elaine Nunes is running on an independent party line — “Working Harder for Queens,” and he on the Democratic ticket, however Lynn Nunes has dodged questions about his intentions for weeks.
Initially he told the Chronicle that he would “not pull a switcheroo,” by diving into the race for White’s seat after a Senate loss and then declared, “No comment on this for a few days,” when questioned this week.
Charles Bilal, an imam from Jamaica, told the Chronicle Wednesday that he is definitely running and plans to officially kick off his campaign with a press conference next week.
If elected, he says he plans to increase youth programs and tackle unemployment, as well to curb what he called an “alarming” number of sex offenders living in the district. Bilal was embroiled in a recent controversy when an unauthorized and loaded handgun was found in his car. He says a youth gave him the weapon to turn in to police as part of the gun buy-back program [see separate story].
Allan Jennings, who held the City Council seat from 2001 to 2005, is the only candidate who has said he would not be accepting CFB matching funds. Jennings’ past is also shaded by controversy.
In Spring 2005, the City Council found him guilty of “creating a hostile work environment” and fined him $5,000 after five women accused him of sexually touching them and making racist and intimidating remarks. Jennings did not respond to requests for comment regarding his latest run for office.
Jamaica NAACP President Leroy Gadsden had considered joining the race, but told the Chronicle Tuesday that his hectic schedule prevented him from doing so, although he did not rule out running for political office in the future.
Also on the list of potential candidates for White’s district seat are Harpreet Singh Toor, the chairman of the Sikh Cultural Society: Vishnu Mahadeo, the president of the Richmond Hill Business Improvement District; Joseph Marthone, an accountant from Jamaica; Hettie Powell, an attorney from Forest Hills; and Martha Taylor Butler, chief of staff for Assemblywoman Michelle Titus.