The Republican presence in the City Council could be whittled down to two members as voters go to the polls today in Queens to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Council Member Dennis Gallagher.
Mr. Gallagher, of Queens, left office after pleading guilty to misdemeanor sexual abuse charges stemming from allegations that he assaulted a 52-year-old grandmother in his campaign office.
Today's special election is a four-way matchup between two Democrats and two Republicans. The vote will fill Mr. Gallagher's seat temporarily; the candidates could compete again as soon as 2009 in regularly scheduled elections.
The Queens Democratic Party has endorsed Elizabeth Crowley, a program director at the Consortium for Worker Education, a nonprofit labor advocacy group. Ms. Crowley ran unsuccessfully against Mr. Gallagher for City Council in 2001, when she was 23. Her family has a history in city politics: Both her parents served on the City Council, and her cousin is Rep. Joseph Crowley, who represents parts of Queens and is chairman of the borough's Democratic Party, connections which are drawing charges of nepotism from critics.
Ms. Crowley has battled for endorsements with the race's other Democrat, community activist Charles Ober. Mr. Ober has the backing of the local Independence Party and last week received the support of the New York Times editorial board. At times, Ms. Crowley and Mr. Ober's competition has been heated; after a local gay club last week endorsed Ms. Crowley, who opposes gay marriage, the openly gay Mr. Ober accused the club's chairman of currying favor with the local Democratic Party to boost his own political ambitions.
On the Republican side, the Queens Republican Party is throwing its support behind Anthony Como, a Queens County Board of Elections commissioner and former assistant district attorney. The other Republican candidate is the district's former council member, Thomas Ognibene, whom Mr. Gallagher succeeded. Mr. Ognibene served in the City Council between 1991 and 2001, before being forced out by term limits. He ran unsuccessfully against Mayor Bloomberg in 2005.
Of the four candidates, Ms. Crowley has had the most success at fund-raising, garnering $159,400 in contributions, but because of fines she received for violating campaign finance laws in her 2001 race, she is not eligible for public matching funds. Mr. Ober has raised $23,744, Mr. Ognibene has raised $35,365, and Mr. Como has raised $48,230.