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Queens Chronicle

New Flushing Assembly Seat Draws 4 Diverse Candidates

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Posted: Thursday, May 30, 2002 12:00 am

The creation of a new Assembly seat in Flushing has drawn four Democratic candidates to the race.

The most recent to throw his hat in the ring is Flushing activist Richard Jannaccio. He is joined by Ethel Chen, Jimmy Meng and Barry Grodenchik.

All except Meng have run for public office before and lost. They think this time will be the charm.

The new 22nd District is an outcome of the 2000 Census, showing the population in the area has increased enough to add another seat. As drawn, the new district primarily takes in Flushing.

Brian McLaughlin, the current assemblyman, will now run for the other seat that extends to Bayside and takes in parts of Electchester, Whitestone and Richmond Hill.

Locals are still waiting for the Department of Justice to rule on the new boundaries before they can get petitions signed.

Ballot petitions were supposed to start on June 4th but the Board of Elections still does not have the official district lines.

Jannaccio, the latest entry in the race, is president of the West Flushing Civic Association, vice chairman of the Fort Totten Restoration Advisory Board and vice president of the Democratic Club of Flushing. He has been endorsed by the Democrats for New Politics.

“It is a new state Assembly district but it has been my home for 42 years,” he said. “I would be honored to serve all the people in our diverse community, should the people elect me.”

Last year Jannaccio ran for the 20th District City Council seat, then occupied by Julia Harrison. He previously ran for the State Senate seat held by the late Leonard Stavisky and ran again a year later to finish out Stavisky’s term.

Ethel Chen has the support of the Democratic Club of Flushing. She is a retired supervising librarian with the New York Public Library and currently is a real estate broker. She ran against Harrison three times; in 1993, 1999 and last year.

Chen believes she has the best chance to win because of being so well known in the community and because of her experience. She annually serves on the Lunar New Year Parade Committee and is involved in other activities.

Jimmy Meng is a local businessman and past president of the Flushing Chinese Business Association. He was not available for comment but local politicos say Meng has supported candidates in the past and thinks they will help him now.

He runs Queens Lumber in Flushing and holds the title of honorary congressman in Taiwan.

Grodenchik is personnel director for Borough President Helen Marshall. He ran unsuccessfully against Jim Gennaro for the City Council seat last year. Although he has the endorsement of the Queens Democratic Party, he is not considered a strong contender in this race. The talk is that he does not live in Flushing and people don’t know him.

James Woo, campaign director for Chen and her son, said that the Queens Dems did not want a Democratic primary. “She would not accede to the demand of no primary,” he said. The party then endorsed Grodenchik, considered a long shot.

“Ethel wants the voters to have a choice. The Democratic Party has imported a candidate who is a sacrificial lamb,” Woo added.

He believes that also helping Chen is the support Harrison is getting in her bid to run for the State Senate. She was also endorsed and is on the same slate of the Democratic Club of Flushing.

“Julia has tremendous support, which helps Ethel even more,” he added.

Also working against Grodenchik is the fact that he lives outside the district in Fresh Meadows. But under state law, a candidate does not have to live in the district he or she is running for until one year after the November election.

Grodenchik previously worked for Borough President Claire Shulman as chief of administration and prior to that worked for Governor Mario Cuomo and Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn.

One casualty of Democratic politics is Paul Belliveau, a McLaughlin protege and member of Painters Union District 9, who was supposed to declare his candidacy last week. He was later advised against it in favor of Grodenchik.

Jannaccio thinks his chances are quite good for winning the seat because of his name recognition in the area and the fact that he has worked on local problems.

“I think all four of us will get on the primary ballot,” he added. “It also helps that Ethel and I ran last year. People remember us.”

Welcome to the discussion.