Transit union leader Daneek Miller topped a crowded Democratic field on Tuesday night, taking the party’s nomination for the 27th District Council seat now held by Councilman Leroy Comrie.
Unofficial totals posted by the Board of Elections on Wednesday had Miller atop the six-candidate field with 24.35 percent of the vote.
Attorney Clyde Vanel took second with nearly 21.8 percent, just edging out Joan Flowers at 21.3 percent.
Manuel Caughman, a long-time party stalwart and an aide to Assemblyman Bill Scarborough (D-Jamaica), had been officially endorsed by the Queens County Democratic Party. He finished in fourth place with 17.2 percent of the vote.
Gregory Mays, a member of Community Board 12 and an education advocate (11.3 percent), and Sondra Peeden (4 percent) rounded out the field.
Miller, who represents Queens-based MTA bus drivers, mechanics and others as president of the Amalgamated Transit Union 1056, faces no Republican opposition in November.
“This is because of the hard work by everyone in this room,” Miller told a jubilant crowd of about 70 supporters. “The people wanted a voice at the table. We now have that voice.”
Miller waited until more than two hours after the polls had closed to declare victory, and was introduced by Comrie, who is being forced to leave the Council because of term limits.
Miller did more than thank his longtime supporter and friend.
“I never had any thoughts of entering politics,” Miller said afterward. “I like my job. I love the ATU. If Leroy had come to me in the spring and said ‘I’d like your help in supporting this candidate’ I would have done it. So when he said ‘We talked about it and the name we came up with was yours,’ that really struck me.”
Miller said family members and close friends, upon being taken into his confidence, increasingly told him that they agreed with Comrie.
And the councilman said his own thought process in the matter was a long and deliberate one.
“Remember, last year I thought I was going to be borough president,” Comrie said. “Daneek has been working with me and supportive of me since before I first ran for the school board. He cares about people. He cares about working people and had worked hard to help working people reach the middle class. I wanted someone who would be a good Council member. I wanted my seat in good hands.”
Miller said education must be the first priority of the new Council and mayor, though he did not yet have specific legislation in mind.
He also said worries of anyone who thinks a union president is going to City Hall to make imprudent deals on the more then 150 expired labor contracts are unfounded.
Miller repeated a statement he made to the Chronicle earlier this year, saying that a good number of unionized city employees also are homeowners, taxpayers and parents of public school children who want the Council to provide services with their tax dollars at the best price.
He soon will have to accumulate a staff, and while he was not making any appointments Tuesday night, Miller said that the same experience as a union leader that taught him the ways and workings of city, state and federal government also have introduced him to a wide range of people who he feels he can turn to as a councilman.
“There are a lot of talented people out there,” he said.
Though the final margin of victory may have been smaller than the Miller campaign would have been comfortable with, a determined army of Miller volunteers seemed to stream into and out of his St. Albans campaign headquarters with a sense of confidence and anticipation.
Early returns from individual polling districts looked good, and were cemented as the evening wore on.
With Miller’s leadership not only in the transit union but the city’s labor movement as a whole, it was not surprising that he had a good deal of labor support.
But he said that would not have been a given if one looked at the fragmented labor support for the various candidates in the Democratic mayoral primaries.
“We are about the only ones who had the transportation unions, law enforcement, uniformed employees, clerical workers, healthcare,” he said. “We were just about the one thing all the unions could agree on. I’m proud of that.”