2005-05-27 / Front Page

Democrats Give Sanders ‘The Hook’

By Howard Schwach

The leadership of the Democratic Party has withdrawn its support for incumbent 31 st District City Councilman James Sanders and has anointed long-time Far Rockaway activist David Hooks for the seat in the upcoming November election.

While the move to give the party nod to Hooks rather than the incumbent surprised many locals, Sanders himself is not surprised.

“I’ve never really run a race with the party’s backing,” Sanders told The Wave this week. “In my first run for the City Council, the party backed somebody else and I won decisively. I want an independent run so that I can bring home the bacon for my constituents.”

Sanders, who already has the Working Families Party line, is not sure whether he will primary for the Democratic seat.

“I’m going to put together an armada of those who want change,” he says.

David Hooks, however, says that he believes that he can win with the party’s backing. And, while he added that he is not personally unhappy with Sander’s tenure in the Council, he says that many other people are.

“I was not unhappy with Sanders, but I got a call from many people who are and they convinced me to think about running for the council seat,” Hooks told The Wave the day after getting the Democratic nod. “I met with locals in Laurelton, Rosedale, Springfield Gardens and Brookville, and they all told me the same story.”

Hooks says that the complaints against Sanders included a failure to return calls, an unwillingness to help his constituents in areas that he personally was not interested in and a terrible attendance record in the Council.

“There were many occasions when neither his city office, his Far Rockaway office or his City Hall office were answering calls,” one critic told Hooks. “Most often when people called for help, they were told to put it into writing and send it in.”

Sanders says that there are a number of reasons the party decided to replace him as their candidate and that they have nothing to do with the way his staff answers the phones or how many time he was absent from Council business.

Sanders says that there are two factors that led to the local district leaders picking Hooks.

“I don’t spend too much time kissing the leader’s ring,” Sanders says. “I find it more important to bring home the bacon for my district than to kiss up to the leadership.”

Sanders says that he follows the Floyd Flake (a minister who became a member of the House of Representatives) school of politics.

“I see the opportunity, seize on the opportunity and bring home the mother lode,” he says.

The other factor in his ouster, Sanders says, come from the fact that there are lots of politics being played out in the coming race for City Council Speaker now that Gifford Miller is running for Mayor.

“Folks who don’t get in line are punished by the party,” Sanders says with a laugh. “I guess that I am one of those folk.”

Sanders says that he expects to win even without the party backing.

“I’ve done it before and done it decisively,” he said. “This is not going to be anything different.”

No Queens County Democratic Party officials or District Leaders would comment for this story.

The primary election, should Sanders or some other Democratic candidate decide to contest the Democratic nomination, will be held on September 13. The general election will be held on November 8.

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