Two special elections are being held this Tuesday, Sept 13, that have a direct impact on the Guyanese community in Queens with significant bearing on the larger city as well. One election for a city council seat involves the greater Richmond Hill neighbourhood. The other contest is for a Congressional seat in the North Richmond Hill, Jamaica, Queens Village, Woodhaven, Brooklyn borderline area. Guyanese American communities have been urged to come out and cast their ballots lest they want other voters to make a decision for them. I also appeal to them to join a campaign to as a volunteer to help their candidate as I am doing on behalf of my two favoured candidates. Polls open at 6am and close at 8pm. Two polls for the Congressional seat show a close race with the Republican Bob Turner ahead of Democrat David Weprin. The seat has been Democratic for decades with the Democrat winning it last time 61% to 39%. But voters are angry with the Democrats for their failure to create jobs. A commentary on the election notes that the race is being held up as a bellwether for almost everything against the Democrats, from President Obama’s re-election efforts, to the public’s fears about the economy, to gay marriage, etc. It is a largely Jewish district with significant numbers of Italians, Irish and Asian minorities, including Indian and Caribbean Americans. Weprin has been courting Guyanese voters and reaching out to them. He sponsored Phagwah and Diwali celebrations at City Hall. But Guyanese generally don’t come out to vote.
My assessment shows Republicans voting strongly for Turner, Democrats divided with some voting for Turner, and Independents breaking toward Turner.
My own view, based on people I spoke with, is the race is a toss-up because of voter apathy. My assessment shows Weprin will pull it off in a come-from-behind victory. The turnout will be very low and whichever candidate gets their voters out to the voting booths, will prevail. In the city council seat, the vote is a challenge for Guyanese American voters. The seat includes the neighbourhoods of Jamaica, Rochdale Village, Richmond Hill and South Ozone Park, with a large number of Guyanese who generally don’t vote. The seat is temporarily held by Ruben Wills who won a special election last November to hold it for a year necessitating a primary on Tuesday. Guyanese Mike Duvall, and three others are challenging Wills for the nomination. By my account, Wills is ahead in numbers and is likely to prevail with many Guyanese backing him saying he has done some positive things for the community since elected a year ago. Duvall is a community advocate and has never shied away from a fight to argue for important causes for Richmond Hill. He made several unsuccesful tries before for this and other seats and his supporters hope his fortune will change this time around.
There are no Republican candidates as the district is heavily Democratic. Whoever wins the primary is a shoo-in for the general election in November.
Wills, an Afro-Jamaican, is backed by several Guyanese who funded his several campaigns for office over the years including last year’s, and are doing so again this time around. He is also utilizing the services of several Guyanese.
Wills defeated six candidates in last year’s crowded race, including Guyanese Albert Baldeo who ran third. From information obtained in my informal survey, Wills is likely to prevail on Tuesday with several prominent Guyanese and Sikhs backing him.