In the second debate this week between the numerous candidates vying for the 31st New York City Council District, some front runners have emerged but the crucial question of a standout remains.
Six candidates took the stage in the debate hosted by the Federated Blocks of Laurelton. Saywalah Kesselly, Marie Adam-Ovide, Donovan Richards, Jacques Leandre, Michael Duncan and Selvena Brooks.
The forum was less contentious than the previous forum, held two nights ago, which got heated over the issue of contested signatures. However, this debate was not without a battle as candidates took their turn to criticize candidate Donovan Richards.
Donovan served as the now Senator James Sanders, Jr., chief of staff before he vacated his City Council seat. Donovan’s responses mostly spoke to the work done under that umbrella. “How did he do this, did Sanders abdicate his position,” said Saywalah in response to Donovan’s repeated work assertions. That led Donovan to mutter, “it’s beat up on Donovan day”.
Donovan also made the comment “I guess I have some fans here” when there were chuckles in response to the question of relieving flooding which included his work on the Springfield Park project. And as much as he wanted the opportunity to respond to the other candidates’ challenges, especially when the issue of a lack of school funding hit the floor, the forum did not allow for responses. Donovan was able to clarify in his remarks that he worked alongside the Councilman and did not hold on to Sanders coattails. To which the audience had to be quieted down with their grumblings of disagreement.
Jacques Leandre and Michael Duncan were the clear front runners of the night. They both gave impassioned answers and Michael continually drew humor for repeating the phrase “when I am Councilman”. The two were courteous and fun loving with each other during their interchanges. Their responses drew the most applause and amens from an audience that was stacked in their favor.
Selvena Brooks remained steadfast, but couldn’t match the fire of Leandre and Duncan. Her responses most often came behind theirs and, unintentionally, fell flat to their fire. Marie Adam-Ovide remained honest and was more forceful this evening. Her responses continued to lean heavily towards education. Saywalah continued his platform that he is not a politician evoking the phrase "time for change”.
Yet and still the major question which hung over the forum had no answer. And talk after the debate between residents focused on that unanswered question of which one candidate could oppose the threat from the Orthodox candidate Pesach Osina, who was not in attendance. Too many candidates are likely to split the vote and allow a challenger with strong voting block to steal the election. And although residents had their favorite candidate chosen as they walked in the door, they continued to talk about the threat from the Jewish candidate after the forum ended. Some even questioned why local elected officials have not stood behind one candidate for the upcoming elections.
Additional candidates forum are scheduled as the election moves forward. The Special election will be held Tuesday, February 19th.