Dominican Runs Uphill Council Race in Queens

Community activist Andrea Veras faces a difficult primary battle against former Assemblyman Rory Lancman for the 24th District seat in Queens. (Photo via El Diario-La Prensa)

Community activist Andrea Veras faces a difficult primary battle against former Assemblyman Rory Lancman for the 24th District seat in Queens. (Photo via El Diario-La Prensa)

Despite the fact that District 24 in Queens has a small Latino population, a Dominican woman is seeking to represent the area in the City Council. Andrea Veras is facing a tough battle against former Assemblyman Rory Lancman in the Democratic primary on September 10.

“I chose to be a candidate because I want to bring change and because members of my community asked me to; because the American leaders didn’t do anything,” said the 57-year-old community activist, who came to New York in 1990. “For that reason, I launched my campaign six months later than the rest.”

According to Veras, residents’ main concerns are car vandalism, accumulation of garbage, and a lack of after-school programs.

District 24 comprises 12 neighborhoods, among them Briarwood, Jamaica, Kew Gardens, Queensboro Hills, Fresh Meadows and St. John’s. In the area, only 26 percent of the population is Latino. Twenty-seven percent is white; 27.4 percent is African-American, and 14 percent is Asian.

But that isn’t the only obstacle for Veras, who is running for a political position for the first time. Her opponent has raised twelve times as much money and has the support of unions and political groups.

Lancman, 44, said he would do a good job representing the district’s Latinos.

“As an assembly member, I co-sponsored the state Dream Act and founded the statewide Immigrant Workers’ Rights Awareness Day in about 20 communities throughout New York,” he said.

Both Lancman and Veras are looking to replace Councilman James Gennaro, whose third and final term finishes this year. The winner of the Democratic primary will face off against Republican Alex Blishteyn in the general elections in November.

According to Angelo Falcón, president of the National Institute for Latino Policy, Lancman has a significant advantage, above all support from the unions.

“It’s difficult for a candidate to win his or her first race,” said Falcón. “In addition, it’s not a typical Latino area, although it’s in the process of changing.”

During a walk through the neighborhood’s streets, most of the people interviewed said they didn’t know the candidates, nor were they familiar with their platforms.

“Local races don’t usually receive much attention and aren’t considered important, but they hold just as much weight as the November [mayoral] elections,” Falcón said.

The analyst added that, although around 3 million Democrats are registered to vote for mayor, it is estimated that only 600,000 will cast their ballot.

“The number of voters for district representatives is much less,” he said.

Currently, Queens has just one Latina representative in the City Council: Julissa Ferreras. If Veras wins, she will become the second Latina and Dominican to represent Queens in the municipal government.

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