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Queens Chronicle

Former Councilman Weighs Run Vs. Smith

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Posted: Thursday, June 1, 2006 12:00 am

The soap opera that is the 10th Senate District race may add yet another controversial cast member.

Allan Jennings Jr., the former Democratic councilman who was disciplined while in office for allegedly sexually harassing female staff members, made an unsuccessful bid for the Republican nomination to run against embattled state Sen. Ada Smith (D Jamaica) this week.

“He was nominated, but he didn’t get a second,” said state Sen. Serphin Maltese, the Queens County Republican chairman, of Jennings’ surprise bid.

Instead, Jereline Hunter, the founder of an environmental youth organization who ran for Jennings’ council seat in 2005, received the nomination after several days of deliberations.

“Hunter will have some shot. People know her name,” said Phil Ragusa, a spokesman for the Republicans.

Neither Hunter or Jennings could be reached for comment.

Hunter joins three other challengers to Smith, an 18 year incumbent who is seen as vulnerable after being accused of throwing hot coffee in the eyes of a staffer in March. Shirley Huntley, a former school board president, Liz Bishop Goldsmith, an anti gun advocate, and Joseph Marthone, a community activist, are already in the race.

Jennings’ nomination by longtime friend and Republican district leader Joseph Kasper is the first indication that the former councilman intends to run. The Republican leadership was caught off guard when Jennings arrived at their nominating meeting last week and asked to be on the ballot.

“When you’re going to nominate someone you are supposed to consult with other leaders,” Maltese said.

While Jennings has been rejected by the Republican leadership, it is unclear whether he will enter the primary elections in either party. He has not registered a political committee, according to the state Board of Elections. Candidates can begin collecting signatures for petitions on June 6 to get on the ballot. The Democrats have already endorsed Smith.

Smith refused to address a possible Jennings candidacy directly. “I have worked hard to create jobs and economic opportunity, to improve our public schools and to expand access to affordable health care. That’s why I’m confident that no matter who runs in the 10th District, my constituents will re elect me,” she said.

A Jennings Smith showdown would pit two of Queens’ more controversial politicians against each other. In addition to the alleged coffee toss incident for which Smith faces a misdemeanor assault charge, the longtime senator paid a fine for ignoring a security checkpoint in 2004 and was accused of biting a Brooklyn police officer in 1998. Earlier this year, she was allegedly forced off a plane after an altercation with a flight attendant.

For his part, Jennings threw a piece of metal at a news reporter while under investigation and compared the City Council ethics probe of the harassment charges against him to a “mob hit.”

Welcome to the discussion.