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Queens Chronicle

Powell challenging Wills in 28th CD

Well-financed opponent and state probe highlight Dems’ primary

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Posted: Thursday, September 5, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 11:16 am, Thu Sep 12, 2013.

For an incumbent Democratic city Councilman to have a serious primary challenger is rare.

For that challenger to have outfunded him by more than $25,000 is practically unheard of.

Councilman Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica) could have the toughest primary opponent of any member of the Council on Tuesday in Hettie Powell, an attorney from Rochdale Village.

Powell, whose firm represents low-income clients, stressed upgrading the schools, employment training and assistance for homeowners faced with foreclosure and small business.

But in her campaign literature and in a recent interview with the Queens Chronicle, she also speaks of “returning integrity to the office.”

She declined to mention Wills by name.

“I’m looking forward, not backward,” she said.

Wills, who won a special election in 2010 after the death of Councilman Thomas White, has campaigned on things like his efforts to stop handgun violence and the proliferation of prostitution.

He also supported passage of the Community Safety Act, which was written in part to address alleged abuses and racial profiling stemming from the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy.

But Wills, whose campaign did not respond to messages left by the Chronicle for this story, has been making more news since he was elected over issues of his personal and professional integrity.

In 2012, Wills invoked his constitutional Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when being interviewed by investigators with the office of New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman about New York 4 Life, a nonprofit he directed.

The state was seeking an accounting for a $33,000 state grant given to the agency by then-state Sen. Shirley Huntley, for whom Wills was serving as chief of staff.

Huntley is now serving a 366-day federal prison term for her guilty plea in connection with state money misappropriated by a nonprofit run by her niece and a former aide.

Wills’ alleged lack of cooperation with Schneiderman’s probe moved Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) in June of last year to strip him of a committee membership and his ability to fund community projects.

Also running is the Rev. David Kayode, a minister and an addiction counselor who ran against Wills in the special election in 2010.

Kayode, as he did three years ago, is running on the platform of “being the voice for the voiceless.”

He was member of Community Board 12 beginning in 2005, but was not reappointed after challenging Wills.

Kayode expressed thoughts at the time that his nonappointment was politically motivated, something Wills has denied.

A fourth candidate on Tuesday’s ballot is Eugen Evans, also of Rochdale Village. Evans is a retired sanitation worker and founder of a car service.

Evans has launched several attacks on Wills through his website, and one against Powell.

Efforts to contact Evans for this story were unsuccessful.

Documents filed with the city’s Campaign Finance Board show Evans having no money for his campaign.

Powell, on the other hand, came prepared for battle, having raised just over $140,000 in private donations and public matching funds.

Her remaining war chest, as of Sept. 2, sat at $44,945 left in the bank.

Wills has raised just over $115,200 for his re-election. The councilman has the edge in cash on hand, with $57,825 left.

Kayode’s campaign is in the red, according to the most recent postings by the CFB.

He has collected $11,823 thus far but is listing a campaign deficit of $1,275 after deducting all reportable spending.

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