Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Candidates Gear Up for Queens Council Race by Jonathan P. Hicks - City Room Blog -

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With this month’s elections over, next year’s political competition is already well under way. And the race to succeed City Councilman Eric N. Gioia, a Queens Democrat, is already off to a fast start, with nearly half a dozen candidates raising money, organizing volunteers and campaigning.

Mr. Gioia, who was elected in 2001, is in his own crowded race for public advocate in 2009, hoping to succeed Betsy Gotbaum, who announced last month that she would not run for re-election.

Over the weekend, campaign events were held in that Queens council district. One candidate, Jimmy Van Bramer, had a campaign kickoff fund-raising party with more than 100 Queens residents. Mr. Van Bramer is a Democratic state Committeeman who has worked for the Queens Public Library for more than a decade.

“It’s not at all too early to start campaigning,” said Mr. Van Bramer, who is also president of the West Queens Independent Democratic Club and a co-founder of Queens Pride House, a center for the borough’s gay population.

Photo: Jimmy Van Bramer (center) with partner Dan Hendricks and Rose Van Bramer (his Mom)

“In fact, this is a critical time to start raising money and begin reaching out to the people in this area,” he said in an interview Monday morning. “It’s really important to be able to show some strength early to demonstrate to people that you’re a serious candidate.”

Mr. Van Bramer is not the only one trying to demonstrate campaign strength in the 26th Council District, which includes the Queens neighborhoods of Sunnyside, Woodside and Long Island City. In fact, he was not the only candidate in the district to have a fund-raising event over the weekend.

Deirdre A. Feerick (photo on right), a lawyer for the City Council and a candidate for the Council seat, held a fund-raising breakfast on Sunday, asking for guests for a $10 contribution and a coat, which was to be donated for a shelter for homeless veterans in the district.

“It’s difficult to ask people for money in tough financial times like these,” said Ms. Feerick, who is also a Democratic district leader in Queens.

“So, what we had was a low-budget event that was pulled together quickly. My mom made coffee cake and soda bread,” she said. “What I wanted to see is not just a political event, but something that benefits the community and to get people in this community involved in something worthwhile. It was a great success.”

Mr. Gioia said he had not endorsed any of the candidates yet. But he said he was pleased to see such a spirited campaign start so early.

“What we’re seeing is something every community should have,” he said. “There is an energetic campaign already under way in this district. And these are grassroots campaigns that are taking place in living rooms, on stoops and in all kinds of places in the community. And I’m delighted to see events that aren’t just normal campaign events, but events that are aimed at getting the community involved.”

Among the other candidates in the race are David J. Rosasco, who is a member of Community Board 2 and president of Nichibei Translations, a Japanese translation business; and Brent M. O’Leary (photo to left), a legal compliance office for Bloomberg L.P.