Thursday, June 18, 2009

Five Available Seats Make Queens' November City Council Race Brisk by Lisa L. Colangelo - NY Daily News

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With five City Council seats up for grabs in Queens, Democrats and Republicans are gearing up for a busy election season.

In addition, Democrats are hoping to keep eight incumbent Council members in their seats - and knock out the lone GOP freshman.

But many more hopefuls are moving ahead with their campaigns, even if it means a bruising primary battle against party-backed candidates.

Candidates who want to receive public funds were required to file with the Campaign Finance Board last week.

Some of the most crowded fields of candidates can be found in the races for seats now held by Council members Melinda Katz, Tony Avella and John Liu, where at least six Democrats are vying for each seat.

Liu and Katz are running for controller, while Avella is making a long-shot bid for mayor.

Queens Democratic Party Executive Secretary Michael Reich said he is confident ex-Deputy Borough President Karen Koslowitz will be able to regain the District 29 seat she held for almost 10 years.

He also thinks Democratic candidate Frank Gulluscio will be able to defeat Republican newcomer Eric Ulrich, who won in a special election for the seat formerly held by State Sen. Joseph Addabbo, a Democrat.

"He got in on a fluke," Reich said of Ulrich. "Frank has tremendous experience in the community."

But Queens Republican Party Chairman Phil Ragusa disagreed and said he also expects former Councilman Thomas Ognibene to beat out Democratic Council member Elizabeth Crowley, who was elected last fall to his former seat - a one-time GOP stronghold.

"He's been there before; people know who he is," said Ragusa.

Reich pointed out Ognibene has been out of office for eight years.

"People are going to ask him, 'What have you done for me lately'" Reich said.

The herd of candidates, however, will most certainly be culled during the petitioning process.

Candidates are gathering signatures to secure a place on the ballot. But party-backed lawyers routinely pore over those signatures in search of irregularities that can keep candidates off the ballot.