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Queens Chronicle

Endorsement: Vote Sanders in the 10th Senate District

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Posted: Thursday, August 30, 2012 10:30 am

Sometimes it’s tough to make a political endorsement, choosing one worthy public servant over another. And sometimes it’s easy. This is one of the latter times.

We were leaning toward endorsing City Councilman James Sanders Jr., the flamboyant lawmaker from the Rockaways, over incumbent state Sen. Shirley Huntley and community activist Gian Jones in the 10th Senatorial District Democratic Primary. The newly redrawn 10th covers much of Southeast Queens, along with the eastern Rockaways, South Ozone Park, Richmond Hill and parts of Ozone Park and Woodhaven.

Yes, we were leaning toward the energetic Sanders, thinking the Senate could use some fresh blood, and then state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sealed the deal — by having Huntley arrested on corruption charges.

The senator, innocent until proven guilty, is accused of trying to cover up the theft of about $30,000 in taxpayer money she had granted to a so-called charity operated by her niece. It’s alleged the group did nothing and the niece and her cohort pocketed the money, and that Huntley falsified a document and tampered with evidence in a lame attempt to fool investigators.

Huntley also directed money toward another group, headed by Ruben Wills before he was elected to the City Council, that is being probed by state investigators over allegedly missing money. Wills’ refusal to cooperate with officials resulted in the loss of some of his councilmanic privileges, including the ability to dole out funds to neighborhood groups — the allocations known as member items, earmarks or, to critics, pork barrel spending. No one has yet been charged in that case.

And the Daily News just revealed that Huntley also steered campaign funds to her daughter, as well as, apparently, other relatives.

We agree with Sanders that character matters. And whether she’s guilty of anything criminal or not, we don’t think it says much about Huntley’s character that when we asked her about the charity scandals prior to her arrest, she said keeping track of how the money was spent wasn’t her job. Sounds like buck-passing to us.

Sanders, to the best of our knowledge, carries no such baggage. He paints himself as a reformer, part of a nascent “clean-hands” movement in government, and it’s true that he’s irked the powers that be, most notably Council Speaker Christine Quinn, with his independence. He’s also got a solid platform to bring to Albany. Though we don’t agree with every last element of it, we see that Sanders is deadly serious about improving the lives of the people in his district.

He puts economic development at the top of his agenda, where it ought to be. He supports some affirmative action in contracting in furtherance of that goal, but says it should be based on economics, not just race and gender. He wants to allow trucks on a section of the Belt Parkway to reduce congestion elsewhere in Southeast Queens. He’s serious about addressing the root causes of crime but doesn’t wear rose-colored glasses in that area, having grown up in a rough neighborhood and been a troublemaker before the works of Malcolm X and the Marine Corps straightened him out. And he’s a dedicated supporter of schools and libraries — the institutions that his member item funds have gone to assist.

If Huntley is convicted of a felony, she’s automatically out of the Senate. But she should be retired regardless. Vote Sanders in the primary on Sept. 13.

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