Sunday, August 16, 2009

Queens City Council Candidate Ruben Wills Throws Punch at Rival in Board of Elections Office by Brendan Brosh

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A Queens City Council candidate took the brawl for City Hall literally on Friday, throwing a punch at a rival in a wild argument over election rules, witnesses said.

The brouhaha broke out at the borough's Board of Elections office, witnesses said.

Ruben Wills - who's running for the 28th Council District seat - took a swing at former City Councilman Allan Jennings, but missed and socked an aide, Jennings said.

Wills, 38, is challenging Jennings' petitions to get on the ballot for the upcoming Democratic primary in September.

"He leaped up and came after me," said Jennings, 42, who held the seat from 2001 to 2005. "He wanted a signature off, and I disagreed."

Jennings campaign worker Frank Perero said he was sitting in front of a computer when Wills' fist hit him and knocked him to the ground.

"All of a sudden, Mr. Wills pops with an angry look on his face, and I find myself on the floor," said Perero. "My back is killing me."

Wills, who told the Daily News he is withdrawing his petition challenge, accused Perero of "buffoonery to act like he was assaulted."

He also accused Jennings of "using the F-word used for homosexuals. He used it 10 or 11 times. He kept going with it."

Wills and Jennings are running against incumbent Thomas White for the seat that represents Richmond Hill, South Ozone Park, Jamaica and Rochdale Village.

A Board of Elections employee restrained Wills, who then left the building. Cops found him in a nearby store, Jennings said. He was not arrested.

"I can confirm that an incident happened," said Board of Elections spokeswoman Valerie Vasquez-Rivera. "A police report was filed."

Wills - who used to work for state Sen. Shirley Huntley - tried to run for Congress against Rep. Gregory Meeks in 2008, but was kicked off the ballot.

He vowed at the time to march on Washington if he was not allowed back in the race.

Wills also had a number of judgments and liens against him for not paying child support, taxes or his student loans, public records show.

Jennings is no stranger to controversy either.

The erratic former councilman made national news when he threw a metal object at a reporter on live TV.

Jennings also placed ads in Chinese language newspapers proclaiming his love for a folk dancer he was dating and his dislike for his wife.

He was accused of threatening a fellow Council member with biblical verses and used Council envelopes to promote his real estate business.

He was also censured in December 2005 for making sexual advances toward two female staffers and forcing them to remain quiet.

The women, who sued in federal court, received a $300,000 settlement from the city.

In 2005, Albert Baldeo, a candidate for the same Council seat was accused of aiming a gun at rival Robert Mahadeo and demanding that he drop out of the race. The charges were later dropped.

"We should be getting away from this type of politics," said Lynn Nunes, who is also running for the seat. "People need to be focusing on issues in the community."