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Espaillat Declares Victory in Uptown Primary, As Huntley Booted in Queens

By  Jill Colvin and Julie  Shapiro | September 13, 2012 11:27pm | Updated on September 14, 2012 2:00am

INWOOD — State Sen. Adriano Espaillat defeated his longtime rival Assembly Guillermo Linares Uptown Thursday night — in one of a series of hard-fought primary battles that in other parts of the city toppled scandal-scarred incumbents.

Espaillat successfully defended his senate seat, after making a failed run for Congress, pulling in 65 percent of the vote to Linares' 35 percent, with 85 percent of precincts reporting.

"The dreams of taxi drivers, the dreams of bodega owners, single moms, senior citizens that are trying to make ends meet in this city — these dreams are here in this platform tonight,” Espaillat said in his victory speech, surrounded by supporters at the Dyckman Express Restaurant in Inwood shortly after 11 p.m.

Thursday night also marked the downfall of two prominent legislators embroiled in controversy: Queens State Sen. Shirley Huntley and Bronx Assemblywoman Naomi Rivera. Huntley has been indicted in a corruption scandal, while Rivera is under fire for allegedly putting her boyfriends on government payroll.

"New Yorkers don't like what they see," said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac Polling Institute, which released a poll this week that found voters are overwhelmingly sick of corruption in Albany.

In Upper Manhattan, Espaillat supporters said they voted for the candidate that they know best.

"I voted for Espaillat, because I don't even feel like I know Linares," said Mary O'Reilly, 53, after casting her vote in Inwood. "He's been our Assemblyman for two years and I couldn't tell you a single thing he has done for us."

The night was a crushing blow for Linares, an Albany veteran — but it was also a disappointment for Linares’ daughter, Mayra, who had hoped to take over her father’s assembly seat and serve by his side.

With 78 percent of precincts reporting, she was more than 10 points behind Gabriela Rosa, a longtime legislative aide and community activist, who was endorsed by Espaillat.

“I’m proud,” Linares said, as she headed home from 809 Bar & Restaurant, where she and her father conceded their races. “I’m going to continue to fight for my community,” she added.

The election also proved to be a day of reckoning for Huntley and Rivera, as voters fed up with scandals booted the two incumbents from office.

In Queens, Huntley was toppled by City Councilman James Sanders Jr. after she was indicted on charges of covering up the theft of taxpayer money earmarked for the Long Island non-profit she founded.

With 92 percent of precinct reporting, Sanders Jr. was declared the winner, with 57 percent of the vote.

Voters also narrowly voted against The Bronx's Rivera, who is under investigation for allegedly stealing from her own non-profit and hiring two former boyfriends for well-paid taxpayer-funded positions.

Mark Gjonaj, a real estate agent with deep pockets and ties to the local Albanian community, was declared the winner in that race, with 52 percent of the vote.

Still, other embattled incumbents managed to make it out with barely a hand-slapping.

Brooklyn Assemblyman William Boyland Jr. managed to crush a gaggle of six challengers — despite being accused of taking bribes to pay his legal bills for another alleged scandal.

With 96 percent of precincts reporting, Boyland had more than twice as many votes as his closest rival, Anthony Jones.

The election also crowned a new generation of Democratic legislators, filling open seats.

On the West Side of Manhattan, retiring State Sen. Tom Duane successfully passed his baton to Brad Hoylman, the former chairman of Community Board 2, who beat Hell's Kitchen activist and bar owner Tom Greco and public school teacher Tanika Inlaw. 

“We've got a lot of work to do," Hoylman told supporters in a victory speech at Mustang Harry's in Chelsea.

Hoylman does not have a Republican challenger in November's general election, so his spot in Albany is assured.

In Brooklyn, District Leader Walter Mosley III in the 57th Assembly District easily sailed to victory in the race to replace soon-to-be Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, with 63 percent of the vote.

In the 25th Assembly District in Queens, Nily Rozic bested Jerry Iannece with 56 percent of vote, and will now be taking the place of Rory Lancman, who stepped down to run for Congress, but lost to Assemblywoman Grace Meng.

Ron Kim appeared poised to win Meng’s 40th District seat, with 27 percent of the vote. Meng offered her congratulations, declaring the win an “historic, hard-earned and well-deserved victory.”

Turnout for the rare Thursday primary was expected to be dismal, but poll workers in many districts said they were surprised to see so many voters turning out.