2011-01-21 / Front Page

Special Election Looms

Will Pheffer Get Clerks Job?
By Howard Schwach

Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer (L) with Joann Shapiro in a recent photo. Speculation says that Shapiro may run for Pheffer’s seat should Pheffer become Queens County Clerk. Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer (L) with Joann Shapiro in a recent photo. Speculation says that Shapiro may run for Pheffer’s seat should Pheffer become Queens County Clerk. Most of the adults who live in Queens are familiar with the signature of Gloria D’Amico, the Queens County Clerk who passed away last month, because her signature was on notices calling residents to jury duty.

If Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer has her way, however, it might one day be her signature on those notices.

“I see this as an opportunity,” Pheffer told The Wave this week. “It is definitely something I would be interested in, but I’ve been this way before. I was almost a shoe-in for the Borough President spot until the mayor changed the rules, and then I was not. Sure things turn out not to be sure when politics are involved.”

“I am not a lawyer,” she added. “But it is a people job and I have always been a people person in my 21 years on the Assembly. I have experience in working with all sorts of people and I would continue that with judges, lawyers, jurors and the public if I get the clerk’s spot.”

The Queens County Clerk is responsible for creating and maintaining all of the documents filed in the Supreme Court from initial filing through final judgment. The clerk also functions as the Commissioner of Jurors, and is responsible for jury service in the borough.

The new clerk will be chosen by the Presiding Justice of the Second Judicial Department, A. Gail Prudenti, a Suffolk County Republican heavyweight, who was appointed to the Presiding Justice slot by Governor George Pataki in 2002.

Pheffer said that Prudenti will post the job “shortly” and ask for applications and resumes. She then plans on interviewing a number of finalists prior to making her decision.

She expects the process to begin “in the next few weeks, probably in early February.”

Should Pheffer get the nod for the clerk’s position, it opens up her Assembly seat for a special election.

A special election for an open state seat is very different from the recent special election we had in Rockaway to elect a City Councilperson to replace Joseph Addabbo Jr.

Each of the five major parties that hold a ballot line – the Democrats, the Republicans, the Working Families, the Conservative and the Independent Parties – would be able to place its own candidate on the ballot.

Those not designated by a party would be able to get on the ballot as well through the petitioning process and would need about 1,500 signatures to make the ballot. The major party candidates would be chosen not by a primary, but by the party’s District Leaders in that Assembly District. That means the Democratic candidate would be chosen by four people – Audrey Pheffer, Frank Gulluscio, Lew Simon and Geraldine Chapey. Should there be a tie, Queens Democratic Leader Joseph Crowley would cast his vote to break the tie.

In the Republican Party, the decision on the candidate will be made by City Councilman Eric Ulrich and Republican District Leader Jane Deacy, a Breezy Point resident. A tie would be broken by Phil Ragusa, the Queens Republican Leader.

Many names are being bandied about by locals who speculate on who the candidates of the two major parties might be.

On the Democratic side, one of the more prominent names is that of Joann Shapiro, Pheffer’s longtime assistant.

Shapiro told The Wave this week that there is no vacancy as yet, but should the vacancy in the Assembly occur she would be, “Interested in taking a look.”

Other possible candidates mentioned by Democratic insiders include Chapey, Simon, Gulluscio and Y. Phillip Goldfeder, a former Bloomberg aide now working for Senator Charles Schumer.

Insiders say that Goldfeder would be the favorite of the Orthodox Jewish constituency at the eastern end of the 23rd Assembly District.

On the Republican side, names being mentioned are Gerry Sullivan, an aide to Ulrich, Joanne Ariola, who ran an unsuccessful campaign against Pheffer ten years ago, Breezy Point resident Bob Turner, who ran a strong campaign against Congressman Anthony Weiner and Dr. Harold Paez, who made a good showing against Pheffer in the last election.

Gulluscio told The Wave that he “is thinking hard about running again.”

“I am a viable candidate because I service constituents every day as the district manager for Community Board 6. I hear rumors from the county organization, however, that I am looking at a long list of those who want to be the party’s candidate.

“Whoever runs,” he added, “will have to have deep pockets because there are no matching funds in a special election like this. The winner will be looking at a primary in less than a year. Not everybody has that kind of resources.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo decides when to call the special election after Pheffer’s Assembly seat becomes vacant, but he has no obligation to do so, according to state Board of Elections spokesperson John Conklin. Once he does declare the seat vacant, however, a special election must be held sometime between 30 and 40 days after the proclamation.

Could the governor hold the proclamation until the next general election.

He could, Conklin says, “but why would he want to.”

There are a string of things that all must happen before the special election becomes reality.

Pheffer must be named as the new Queens County Court Clerk.

The Governor must declare Pheffer’s Assembly seat vacant.

Then, and only then, the political action will really begin, insiders say.

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