UPDATE: Matthew Titone won the special election, becoming Staten Island's first openly gay public official. According to unofficial returns, in an election marked by low turnout, Titone, an attorney, received 49 percent of the vote, compared to 32 percent for Rose Margarella, the Republican and Conservative Party candidate, and 19 percent for Independence Party candidate Kelvin Alexander, who was seeking to become Staten Island's first black elected public official.
The race to succeed John Lavelle, the longtime member of the Assembly who died this winter, could give Staten Island some political firsts. But in the meantime, the race has developed some nasty undertones.
The contest features three candidates: Democrat Matthew Titone, who also has the Working Families Party endorsement; Republican Rose Margarella, who will also appear on the Conservative Party line; and Kelvin Alexander, the Independence Party candidate.
If elected, Matthew Titone would be the first openly gay legislator from the island; Kelvin Alexander, a retired police sergeant who works as an aide to Brooklyn State Senator Eric Adams, seeks to become the borough’s first black elected official.
Attorney Matthew Titone got the Democratic Party’s nod â€“ highly valued in this Democratic district â€“ after what the Staten Island Advance described as “a contentious six-hour” convention.” While party chair John Gulino trumpeted the event as “the democratic process at work,” an ally of one of the failed candidates termed it “a sad day for democracy.”
The acrimony has not faded.
Kelvin Alexander tried to form a new political party called the Family First Party just for the election. Matthew Titone objected, charging that family was “anti-gay code.” “When did it start happening on Staten Island that being a family man became a bad thing?” Alexander countered. In the face of a challenge from Titone, the Board of Elections threw the Family First Party off the ballot, on the grounds that many of the signatures on Alexander's petition were invalid. Alexander has said this was part of an effort to disenfranchise black voters, and is now running only on the Indpendence Party line.
Republicans hope that all this will give Rose Margarella, a school teacher, the opportunity to pick up the seat.
All three candidates cite transportation congestion as a key concern, with Matthew Titone looking to improve bus service and Rose Margarella saying she would work to get funding for a North Shore rail line. Kelvin Alexander would increase the number of bus routes between Staten Island and New Jersey so the island's commuters could have access to rail service into Manhattan.
Both Rose Margarella and Matthew Titone cite education, including class size and getting a fair share of funds for Staten Island schools, as a key issue. While Margarella supports Governor Eliot Spitzer's plan to give parents who send their children to private or parochial schools $1,000 education tax credit, Titone opposes it, saying it is similar to a voucher. Kelvin Alexander wants a new high school on Staten Island with an emphasis on trade programs for students not going to college.
Matthew Titone and Rose Margarella disagree about gay marriage, with Titone in favor of it and Margarella saying “As your assemblywoman, I will oppose any legislation that threatens the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman.”
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