Let the candidate stampede begin!
May 13, 2015 | 7723 views | 0 0 comments | 248 248 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Mark Weprin
Mark Weprin
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The ink is barely dry on Councilman Mark Weprin's statement announcing he would be leaving the City Council for a post in the Cuomo Administration, and already the politically ambitious in eastern Queens are lining up for their chance to make the jump from civic activism and token district leader posts to the big time.

At least one of the names being bandied about has had a taste of the major leagues before he was sent back down to Political Triple A. Barry Grodenchik served a brief stint in the Assembly – from 2002 to 2004 – before he was bounced from his seat by Jimmy Meng, the father of Congresswoman Grace Meng.

Grodenchik currently serves in the office of Borough President Melinda Katz. Political insiders believe Grodenchik's biggest challenge to getting the coveted blessing of the Queens County Democratic Party is Dominic Panakel, who currently serves as Councilman Rory Lancman's chief of staff.

While a special election to replace Weprin will be a non-partisan affair, the support of the county party will be a big boost in both fundraising and campaign-related activities. Expect whoever the county passes on to leave the race.

Take for example Grodenchik, a longtime party loyalist,and his most recent bid for office. He cut short his own campaign for borough president a couple of years ago when it became clear that the party was going to support Katz, who eventually won the job.

Don't expect a graceful exit, however, from the other folks who are rumored to be eyeing the position. Perennial also-ran Bob Friedrich is, of course, on that shortlist. The president of the board of a large eastern Queens co-op and a former candidate for several seats in the district at both the city and state level, he will no doubt be considering another run.

Anj Najmi, an attorney and local activist is also rumored to be a potential candidate. And according to sources, some Democrats are pushing Steve Behar, who is also no stranger to running for political office, having run both for the City Council and Assembly in recent years, to throw his hat in the ring.

Behar certainly didn't do anything to dispel the rumors of potential, posting on Facebook that he was flattered to have his name mentioned as a potential replacement without ruling out a run.

And even though it's a nonpartisan election, this could be a prime opportunity for the new chairman of the Queens GOP, former Congressman Bob Turner, to mobilize his base and show that the party can run viable candidates for office who have a real shot at winning after years of dysfunction at the count level.

An insider with the Queens Republican Party said they are currently considering several candidates to back, but that Joseph Concannon, who has ties to the Queens Village Republican Club, was the most likely GOP candidate.

Concannon has been in front of the cameras a lot recently. The retired NYPD captain has been appearing across the city to call for increased support for police officers. In a crowded field in a nonpartisan election, Concannon makes for a compelling candidate.

As for Mark Weprin, according to published reports he was becoming increasingly frustrated in the City Council, especially after he was passed over in a heated race for the speakership in favor of Melissa Mark-Viverito.

Weprin's new title will be Deputy Secretary for Legislative Affairs, ending a 21-year career in elected office, first as a member of the Assembly and then in the City Council. In a statement, he said he would formally resign his post within the next two weeks, setting the stage for a date to be set for the special election.

Let the fun begin!

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