2002-03-16 / Front Page

Pataki Calls For Special Election Vote On Assembly Seat Set For April 16

By Gary G. Toms

By Gary G. Toms

Governor Pataki has made the call, and a special election will take place on April 16 to fill the void in the 31st Assembly district, which was caused by the death of Assemblywoman Pauline Rhodd-Cummings.

While Pataki had remained silent on the issue of holding a special election for the last several weeks, many potential candidates have made it very clear that they intend to run for the position in conversations with Thomas Manton, the Democratic Party chairman in Queens.

Areas making up the 31st district include Far Rockaway, Rosedale, South Ozone Park, Springfield Gardens and portions of Richmond Hill.

Candidates in special elections for seats in the State Legislature are selected by the various political parties, which is a sharp contrast to the nature of special elections for seats in the City Council. In the case of the upcoming Queens election, the Democratic Party selects its nominees by a vote of the party's district leaders in the area where the election is to be held.

Michele Titus, a lawyer who is well known in the district, has been pitched as a leading candidate for the Assembly seat. Titus ran unsuccessfully in her bid for a City Council seat last year.

"She might be at an advantage because she is one of the district leaders and is part of the process of choosing a selection. It's basically the district leaders call. I assume that if she gets her vote, and one other, it should be enough," said Manton.

Some of the candidates have indicated that they intend to run in the September primary even of they do not have the backing of the Democratic Party. With the recent redistricting, it is not clear as to how many other candidates will enter the race, but the numbers are expected to increase in the weeks leading up to the primary.

This is not the first time that the district has had a special election. In 1998, Pauline Rhodd Cummings became a member of the Assembly after winning a special election that was held to fill the position left vacant by Gregory W. Meeks, who went on to become a Congressman that year.

"I think it will be a very interesting race. I did not feel that the field would be as large, and no matter what happens, it will be a very interesting race," said Curtis Archer, Executive Director of Rockaway Development and Revitalization Corporation.

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