2011-06-03 / Front Page

Shapiro Steps Out

Will Not Seek Pheffer’s Assembly Seat
By Howard Schwach

In a move that surprised many locals, Jo Ann Shapiro, who had served as a loyal aide to Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer for more than two decades, has decided not to run for Pheffer’s seat in the upcoming special election.

“I looked at the election over and over again over the past few weeks and decided not to run,” Shapiro told The Wave on Tuesday. “I served this community right alongside Audrey [Pheffer] and because of her I had respect and authority equal to hers because that’s the way she wanted it. Even had I won the seat, I would have had to start all over again as a freshman legislator, with no staff, no budget and no committee assignments. I would not have been able to function as I did before, and I do not want that.”

“It was a tough decision to make,” she added, “but I spoke with my family and it was the right decision for me at this time.”

Shapiro says that she faces “new and exciting things” with her family’s business here in Rockaway. “I am always going to be part of the Rockaway family,” she said.

She says that she will retain the Democratic District Leader slot and as such, will have a chance to choose the person who will eventually fight for the Assembly seat in the special election, once it is called by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

The special election will most likely be held on the same day as the primary election on September 13, political insiders told The Wave last 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. She has already turned her Democratic leadership position over to Shapiro.

If the insiders are correct, and there is no indication that 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.

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.

With Shapiro out of the race, Simon becomes the frontrunner, local Democratic sources say, but an operative at the Queens party headquarters said that Rockaway native Y. Phillip Goldfedder, a past aide for Mayor Michael Bloomberg now working for Senator Charles Schumer may get the party nod rather than Simon.

Goldfedder, insiders say, would be a favorite of the large Orthodox Jewish community in the area of Far Rockaway that Pheffer represented.

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 similar 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.

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.”

Another Democrat may enter the race as well.

Community activist Paul Schubert has said he will petition for a slot on the ballot.

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