The Rev. Floyd Flake, the influential Jamaica pastor and former congressman, this week endorsed City Councilman James Sanders Jr. (D-Laurelton) in his primary challenge to state Sen. Shirley Huntley (D-Jamaica).
Flake, who heads the Greater Allen African Methodist Episcopal Cathedral in Jamaica and formerly represented the 6th Congressional District in the House of Representatives, said he was proud to endorse Sanders, who served as his assistant district manager before winning the 31st Council District seat.
“I’m proud to stand with a builder in our community, who has been on the front lines of some of the most urgent and pressing battles facing the people of our district,” Flake said in a prepared statement issued by Sanders. “From economic development to crime, from education to protecting our seniors, from fighting for better streets to expanding and cleaning up our parks, Councilman Sanders has been a leader with a clear vision for his constituents, and a demonstrated track record of success.”
Describing Flake as a “consummate public servant,” Sanders said, “I am extremely honored, humbled, and gratified to have the support of my role model and former boss, Pastor Flake, as we take the first steps towards shaping a brighter future for our district. Reverend Flake has been a trusted advisor, and a friend throughout my personal and public life.”
Sanders is in his third four-year term as a councilman and cannot run for re-election when his tenure expires at the end of the year due to term limits. Huntley is also in her third term, but the state Senate, where members are elected every two years, has no term limits. Primary Day for state offices is Sept. 13.
Because the area is so heavily Democratic, whoever wins the primary is widely considered a shoo-in for the office, even if there is a Republican nominee.
As with all state legislative districts, Huntley’s 10th Senatorial was redrawn this year based on the results of the latest Census. The new district encompasses more of the area Sanders represents in the Council than the old one did, potentially giving him an edge he would not have had if he ran against Huntley two years ago, when she easily fended off a primary challenge from realtor and community activist Lynn Nunes.
Huntley, however, said Tuesday that she is not concerned about Flake’s endorsement of Sanders.
“I have worked hard for the past six years and my constituents know who I am and how hard I work,” she said. “People have the right to endorse whoever they wish. It’s not a surprise. He has a history with Rev. Flake.”
Huntley acknowledged that Flake is a major figure in the community, but said, “The majority of my constituents don’t go to Allen. I have the support of most of the clergy in this community.”
Asked to name specific pastors or churches that have given her their support, Huntley said she will be producing a list of her endorsements within “the next couple of days.”