2012-09-21 / Top Stories

Councilman Sanders Celebrates Election Victory

By Miriam Rosenberg

Sanders on election night with his chief of staff Donovan Richards and campaign manager Steve Behar. Sanders on election night with his chief of staff Donovan Richards and campaign manager Steve Behar. Last week’s primaries for the re-drawn 10th New York State Senate District resulted in an old face becoming the area’s new representative in Albany. City Councilman James Sanders Jr. beat out the incumbent, Senator Shirley Huntley, and area resident Gian Jones, bringing new representation to the people on the east end of the peninsula.

Sanders took an early lead as the results began to come in and shifted to Huntley for a very short time. By 11:21 p.m., when the latest round of primary election results was posted online Thursday night, there was no doubt about it; Sanders was now Senator-elect Sanders. By 11:33 Sanders was projected as the winner.

“This is not my victory,” said Sanders, as he declared victory during a party at the Krystal Hall in Richmond Hill. “This is the people’s victory.”

With his wife Andrea, son Malik, staffers and supporters surrounding him, Sanders added, “We never lost the dream – an American dream. A dream that said that a sharecropper’s son, that a domestic’s son, could be a councilperson and could also be a state senator in the Empire State. To the sharecroppers, to the domestics, this is yours.”

He added his thanks and praise to all those who worked to get him elected and the winning and varied coalition of people – Orthodox Jews, Sikhs, Blacks, Latinos, whites, South Asians, Muslims, Hindus and Christians – who live in the 10th District.

NY1 also reported that the Senator-elect made reference to the various scandals that have come out of the state legislature recently, which includes the indictment of Huntley on corruption charges. “We pledge clean government, a respect for government. This is not our money. This is the people’s money. We don’t have the right to spend it as we wish,” Sanders said. When this reporter spoke by phone to Sanders’ chief of staff, Donovan Richards, at 11:20 that night they were not yet ready to declare victory. But then Richards was told the percentage separating his candidate and Huntley and the number of polling areas reporting. He then said, “Oh, we won.”

Steve Behar, Sanders’ campaign manager, expressed his emotions at the win. “I still don’t believe it,” he said. “We were so outgunned,” said Behar. “[Huntley] had the county machine behind her; much more money, almost every elected official in Southeast Queens and the rest of the county were behind her. We had the help and support of a bunch of young gentleman and ladies from the Rockaways in their teens and twenties and it became David [versus] Goliath.”

According to the New York Times, with 100 percent of the vote counted Sanders received 4,979 votes or 57 percent of the votes, Huntley got 3,477 votes or 40 percent and Gian Jones received 263 votes or 3 percent of the vote.

Sanders, the current city councilman from the 31st District, has represented the east end of Rockaway for the last 10 years and was term-limited, with next year to be his last in the Council. With no Republican challenger this fall, Sanders automatically heads to the state capitol in January.

The election was not without problems. Ocean Village experienced a blackout that halted voting for a while. According to Sanders’ campaign manager the procedure in such an emergency is to have voters cast their ballots and then put them in a secure envelope. Once the power returns poll workers are to scan the ballots. That did not occur and there is no idea, according to Behar, how many people were turned away or left and did not vote.

Redistricting also caused some confusion as voters either came to their old polling places or were directed to the wrong station at a voting site, such as happened to this reporter. Persistence and help from officials on the scene were needed to correct the problem.

Sanders’ spokesman Michael Lopes assures that the district offices in Far Rockaway and Laurelton will remain open.

A person will be assigned to run the offices when Sanders resigns his seat, probably in December. according to a source.

Early next year the mayor should call for a special election for someone to complete Sanders’ current council term. A primary and regular election for the seat will also take place in 2013.

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