2011-05-27 / Top Stories

Special Election 'Most Likely' September 13

Deacy Gets GOP Nod, Fight For Dem OK
By Howard Schwach

The special election to find a person to fill the seat of former Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer will most likely be held on the same day as the primary election on September 13, political insiders told The Wave this week.

“It makes sense and it saves money,” the insider, who asked not to be identified, said. “And, it gives all those who want to run in the election a chance to get their petitions in line.”

Pheffer left office on May 16 to become the new Queens County Clerk.

Pheffer has already turned her Democratic leadership position over to her longtime aide, Jo Ann Shapiro.

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

If the insiders are correct, and there is no indication that Governor Andrew Cuomo is in a hurry to declare the vacancy and call a special election to fill Pheffer’s seat, then those interested in running for the seat must either get their party’s nod or have more than 1,500 signatures on petitions by August 23.

Sources at the state’s Board of Elections say that the petitions cannot be offered until July 11 for either a primary or a special election to be held on September 13.

A special election for a state seat is very different from the special election that put Eric Ulrich into the City Council last year.

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 still be able to get on the ballot as well, through the petitioning process.

The major party candidates would be chosen not by a primary, but by the party’s District Leaders elected in the 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.

Each of the other parties has a simi- lar procedure for choosing a candidate for the special election, but longtime election watchers say that often those parties hook up with a major party candidate.

Ulrich has already indicated to The Wave that he will nominate and back Deacy as the Republican candidate.

In a meeting at The Wave office on Tuesday, Ulrich said, “Deacy is an interesting candidate. Her life experience as a police officer in some of New York City’s toughest neighborhoods and her intensity and interest in public service make her a good candidate for the seat.”

“This Assembly District is the most conservative in the city,” Ulrich added. “With no incumbents and a conservative district, a Republican has a good chance.”

Deacy threw her hat in the ring last week, saying, “I am planning on running, barring any unforeseen issue like poor health. I know of no other registered Republican who is contemplating a run at this time. I look forward to the election.”

The picture on the Democratic side is much more complicated.

The apparent front-runner for Pheffer’s seat is Shapiro, who has worked along with Pheffer for more than two decades.

“I have had 24 years as the chief of staff for Audrey and there is no candidate with more experience or knowledge of the Assembly than I have,” Shapiro recently told The Wave. “I have worked side by side with her and she has been my role model. Hers are big shoes to fill, but I am the most qualified to fill those shoes.”

Shapiro added that she has other experience in the community as well.

“My husband and I have a business in the community, we have a home in the community, we are active in civic affairs and in a number of other areas.”

Other possible candidates mentioned by Democratic insiders include Lew Simon, who has told anybody who would listen that he is running and expects to win.

“I do not want to announce as yet,” Simon told The Wave. “I’m waiting for Cuomo to declare the seat vacant and then I’ll declare my candidacy. I’m waiting to see what’s coming, but I will be in the race.”

Another name bandied about is that of 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.

Another local Democrat, Paul Schubert, who bills himself as the “Rockaway Tiger,” has indicated that he will petition for a spot on the ballot.

Schubert, the new face on the block, says that he has already done a lot for Rockaway residents, taking credit for “boardwalk wheelchair ramps, traffic lights and subway infrastructure.”

Under election law, Cuomo decides when to call the special election after the Assembly seat is officially vacated, but he has no obligation to declare an official vacancy, according to state Board of Elections spokesperson John Conklin. If he does declare the seat vacant, however, a special election must be held sometime between 60 and 70 days after the proclamation.

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