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Candidate showdown at clergy breakfast

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It's on!

The race for NYS Senate District 14, currently held by Malcolm Smith, got kicked into high gear with its first showdown between candidates.

Candidate Clyde Vanel and former Councilman Leroy Comrie came to an unexpected collision at the Clergy United for Community Empowerment (CUCE) breakfast meeting on May 6th.

Candidate Vanel was the sponsor of the breakfast and thus the invited speaker. The candidate used the time to explain to the body of Southeast Queens Clergy present the reasons why he would be the best person to win the senate seat.

Not long after Vanel gave his speech, former Councilman Comrie was given the floor and said “I intend to be your next NYS senator”. His statement received a rousing round of applause.

However, not everyone was convinced by Comrie’s certainty or willing to blindly following the familiar. It was evident there was dissension in the ranks.

“We play games with each other. We don't talk about the real issues,” said Sherman James. “It takes five politicians to put up a stop light…that’s a photo op…that's a game”.

“We cut each other's throat. Once we get into office we forget our community,” said CUCE Board Member. “They hand pick people to control what comes to this community”.

“We allow Queens County [Democratic Club], people who do not look like us, tells us who to run,” said Vanel during his remarks. A statement that generated applause.

Comrie, who recently stepped down from his newly appointed position as Deputy Borough President to run for office, holds no elected office. His short and impassioned speech for why he was best for the job, seemed ill placed at the sponsored breakfast.

“I have been consistent, honest and loyal to this community,” he said. He mentioned his unblemished record and his stepping down from his position because “I believe in this community,” he said.

In response to that earlier claim that the community is not in charge of their own politics, Comrie stated, “I am not run by nobody but God”.

Both candidates were courteous in their exchanges. Vanel continuously mentioned that Comrie was not a bad person and his heart was in the right place. “But that is not enough,” he said.

During Vanel’s opening remarks, he referred to the current state of the community. He mentioned high unemployment rates, a generation that cannot afford to buy or maintain the homes they were brought up in. A generation that has more degrees and no jobs in an area that has been the dirtiest for decades. Failing schools and the number of people that are killed due to gun violence every year at house parties.

“His strategy is not enough…We need something different,” said Vanel.

In an interview, Vanel said he was undeterred by Comrie’s presence and knew he would be addressing a room that leaned towards the opponent. “I had to speak frankly, openly and honestly,” he said. “My message did not change whether he was there or not.”

The candidates agreed to meet again for a debate.

The seat is currently held by Senator Malcolm Smith who was recently indicted on corruption charges. His trial is set to start June 2014.

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