2011-04-29 / Top Stories

Pheffer Takes Clerk’s Slot

Special Election In Play
By Howard Schwach

Let the games begin!

Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer, who has represented Rockaway for 24 years, will step down from her position on May 12 to take the position of Queens County Clerk, replacing the late Gloria D’Amico, who passed away late last year.

“I am excited about the change and the chance to serve all the people of Queens in this important post,” Pheffer told The Wave, adding that she was sad to be leaving a post that impacted Rockaway.

She has turned her Democratic Party leadership position over to her longtime aide, Jo Ann Shapiro.

She cannot, however, turn her Assembly slot over to another person.

There will be a special election later this year to fill her position, and it is expected to draw a wide range of candidates.

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., who had left his position to become a State Senator.

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 – Jo Ann Shapiro, 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 Shapiro, who told The Wave 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 Deacy, who also lives in Breezy Point.

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 the Assembly seat is officially vacated, 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.

That clock is expected to begin on May 12, when Pheffer officially vacates her Assembly seat. That means the earliest a special election could be held would be June 12, which is not a long time for candidates to get on board and for petitions to be signed.

Insiders say that Cuomo will hold off declaring the seat vacant and setting a date for a special election until the prospective candidates have their petitions lined up and ready to go.

Could the governor hold the proclamation until the next general election in September, thereby saving the money it would cost to run the special election and placing it under general election rules?

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

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