Special Council Race Sees Apparent Upset By Jewish Candidate In Queens

Jews vote.

That axiom was never truer than in Tuesday’s little noticed special election for city council in southeast Queens. An Orthodox Jewish candidate running in a field that featured seven black candidates may have emerged the surprise winner.

It will take at least a week for election officials to count all of the paper and absentee ballots and declare a winner, but both the favorite in the race, Donovan Richards, and the Jewish candidate, Pesach Osina, have already claimed victory.
How could a Jew running in a district that is said to be 71 percent black and has traditionally elected black candidates pull off such an upset? The numbers suggest it was apathy among the general electorate and a strong get-out-the-vote effort by the Jewish community.

In a district with about 84,000 registered voters, only 8,361 bothered to cast a ballot – about 10 percent. And Jews cast many of those votes. The other six black candidates split the remaining 3,300 votes, a fact some in the black community warned about before the election in an unsuccessful bid to get some to withdraw.

The vote count Tuesday night gave Richards the victory over Osina by just 26 votes – 2,513 to 2,487. The uncounted votes will decide the winner.

The Wall Street Journal said unofficial votes from heavily Orthodox polling areas gave Osina the clear lead. For instance, at the Young Israel in Far Rockaway, Osina amassed 863 votes to Richards’ 85. At I.S. 53, a school in Far Rockaway, Osina won handily – 565-35.

Jewish community leaders said the tremendous outpouring of support for Osina was because many in the district’s growing Jewish community believed they had been underrepresented. Should he win and stand for re-election in the fall, it will be up to Osina to make sure the black community cannot say that about him.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.