2011-08-12 / Top Stories

Candidate Backgrounds: Vote Set For September 13

Analysis By Howard Schwach

Just before the summer, Audrey Pheffer, who had been Rockaway’s Assemblywoman for more than 22 years, left her post to become the Queens County Clerk.

With her Assembly seat then vacant, Governor Andrew Cuomo had a decision to make.

There were two ways that he could have filled the seat.

Since it was so close to the regular election time, he could have allowed a regular primary election in September, with the electorate choosing a candidate who would then stand in the November election.

Or, he could have called a special election, which would allow the candidates to be designated by the party bosses and the district leaders, taking the vote away from the electorate and putting it in the hands of those party bosses.

Cuomo chose the latter.

Right after Pheffer left she designated her longtime aide and friend, Jo Ann Shapiro, as Rockaway’s Democratic District Leader. All of the insiders expected that Shapiro would become the Democratic candidate by default.

In a blockbuster decision, however, Shapiro dropped out of the race, throwing her support (and by default, Pheffer’s) behind 30-year-old Y. Phillip Goldfeder, an aide of Senator Charles Schumer.

Democratic insiders widely believe that the party (and Schumer) wanted Goldfeder and that Shapiro was offered some sort of deal to drop out of the race. Only time will tell if that contention is correct.

When party leaders got together, Rockaway male Democratic District Leader Lew Simon believed that he had the party nod, but it was not to be.

Four political leaders were responsible for making the Democratic pick – Simon, Shapiro, Geraldine Chapey and Frank Gulluscio.

Gulluscio did not show up, leaving three people to decide who the Democratic candidate would be.

Simon nominated himself and he was seconded by Queens Democratic Leader Joe Crowley. Shapiro nominated Goldfeder and Chapey seconded the nomination.

Simon became the odd man out. He was later offered the Independence Party line, but turned it down because he would have lost his leadership position with the Democrats.

The Republican decision was less dramatic.

The decision was made by only two people, the two Republican District Leaders who represent Rockaway – City Councilman Eric Ulrich and Jane Deacy.

They both decided that Deacy, an ex-police officer who lives in Breezy Point, is the perfect candidate.

So, the election, set by Cuomo for Primary Day on September 13, goes on.

Many voters are angered by the fact that the party leaders were allowed to choose the candidates rather than the electorate.

They are angry about the fact that both of the candidates come from insular communities at either end of the peninsula – Goldfeder from the Orthodox Jewish community and Deacy from the gated community on the west end of the peninsula.

Everybody agrees that, as in all special elections, turnout is the key. The party that turns out the most voters will win the day.

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