The Democratic primary is nearly upon us, and in southeast Queens there are two competative races in which aspiring leaders, both of whom got their feet wet in last year’s City Council race, will try to unseat well-known, longtime public figures.
Clyde Vanel, 36, a lawyer from Cambria Heights who unsuccessfully tried to unseat City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) during last year’s Democratic primary, will now battle Assemblywoman Barbara Clark (D-Jamaica), who has represented the 33rd Assembly District for more than 20 years.
Lynn Nunes, 25, a real estate broker from Richmond Hill who came within a few votes of defeating City Councilman Tom White Jr. (D-South Ozone Park) last year, will face off against state Sen. Shirley Huntley (D-Jamaica), contending that she has lost touch with her constituents and suggesting that he represents the change the community needs.
Huntley says she maintains a close relationship with her constituents, meeting with them often and listening to their concerns. “I’m out there 24/7,” she told the Chronicle last month. “I’m everywhere.”
Huntley, 72, was first elected in 2006, succeeding Ada Smith. Her district includes Jamaica, South Jamaica, Springfield Gardens, Laurelton, South Ozone Park, Broad Channel and Lindenwood.
Both Nunes and Huntley say they are focusing on healthcare, education, and the foreclosure crisis that has devastated southeast Queens. One key issue on which they differ is same-sex marriage.
Nunes supports marriage equality while Huntley is opposed. Although both contend that it will not be a deciding factor in the campaign, it has helped Nunes rack up endorsements from some gay power players — City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), City Councilman Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.
According to the state Board of Elections, Nunes has raised $147,047.35 from June 8 to Aug. 8 and spent $39,883.98 as of August 8. Huntley raised $85,014 from June 10 to Aug. 9 and had spent $63,441.56 as of Aug. 5.
Meeting with many members of the community who are dissatisfied with Clark’s performance, Vanel decided to challenge the 12-term assemblywoman. His priorities include the expansion of economic opportunities through infrastructure development; improvements to education including the expansion of after-school programs; ensuring seniors have better care and programming; and addressing the foreclosure crisis through the education of homeowners.
Clark, 71, whose district includes the communities of Bellerose, Cambria Heights, Hollis, Queens Village, St. Albans and part of Floral Park, says she is focusing on job creation and improvements to education.
Clark noted that unemployment “creates a spiraling effect which can trigger foreclosures, crime, as well as the loss of services that are a safety net for many people.” She plans to stop the spiral by ensuring that her constituents have better job training and educational programs .
Her other goals include securing approval and funding for a community college in southern Queens and sponsoring additional bike lanes, community gardens and other health initiatives to improve residents’ quality of life.
According to the state Board of Elections, Clark raised $4,110 from June 18 to Aug. 9 and spent $145.11 as of July 27. Vanel raised $1,055 from June 16 to July 27 and spent $885.96 as of Aug. 9.
Assemblyman Bill Scarborough (D-Jamaica), Assemblywoman Vivian Cook (D-Jamaica), Assemblywoman Michele Titus (D-South Ozone Park), and state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Jamaica) are all running unopposed in the fall election. Republican candidate Asher Taub, will try to topple Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) in November for the 6th Congressional seat.