NEW YORK—A special race to fill a vacant City Council seat in Queens is so close it will likely end in a recount, according to reports.
James Sanders Jr. moved into the state senate on Jan. 1, leaving the 31st council district in Queens position vacant.
The race to replace him drew eight candidates and preliminary results show two of them with only 26 votes between them.
Donovan Richards, a former aide to Sanders, is barely ahead of Pesach Osina, an Orthodox Jew who works for Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder.
The race isn’t over because paper and absentee ballots have to be counted next week. If a recount is required, the Board of Elections don’t know how long it could take, according to a spokesperson.
There is also a memory stick used in electronic voting machines to count votes that has gone missing, according to the Times Ledger.
Osina’s strong showing is a mark of a growing Orthodox population in the northeast Queens district; unofficial results show Osina garnering 1,428 of his 2,487 votes at two voting sites that are in mostly Orthodox neighborhoods (one of the sites was a synagogue), according to the Wall Street Journal.
Seven of the candidates—all but Osina—are black, in the majority black district.
Because of this, a black reverend, Rev. Charles Norris in a church in Jamaica, Queens, asked each of them at a forum earlier this month if they would be willing to drop out so it would be easier to have a black candidate win.
“You have one white person from Far Rockaway that’s in the race. Jews vote in a block,” he said, according to the Queens Tribune. “They will knock every one of you out. Which one of you thinks you are best to run to beat the Jew that’s running in Far Rockaway?”
None of the candidates did drop out, and all but one said they would run again in the November primaries, according to the Tribune. The ultimate winner of the election will only be in office until the end of the year, filling what would have been the remainder of Sander’s term. City Council elections are later this year, along with elections for citywide positions such as mayor.
Both leading candidates declared victory but if the margin of victory is less than 0.5 percent, a manual recount is automatically triggered, a Board of Elections spokesperson told the Times Ledger. The current margin is 0.3 percent.
Council District 31 includes Far Rockaway, an area next to the Jamaica Bay that was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy.
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