Gennaro tries to kick GOP placeholder off ballot in complicated Queens council race – Yakubov


For the past few weeks, Republican attorney Leo Yakubov has been campaigning for the special election to fill an open Queens council seat. There’s just one issue: 11 candidates have filed paperwork to run Feb. 2 and none of them are Yakubov.

Ex-Councilmember James Gennaro is trying to keep it that way. He has filed a legal challenge to disqualify a placeholder candidate, and thus block Yakubov from the crowded field.

Gennaro is looking to reclaim his old seat in Council District 24, a position that opened up when Rory Lancman left office to take a job in the Cuomo Administration last month.

The moderate Democrat has strong support among many Orthodox Jewish and Bukharian Jewish constituents based on the 12 years he spent in office from 2001 to 2013. Blocking Yakubov, who is Bukharian, will help him consolidate that support in the city’s first ranked-choice election.

To that end, Gennaro has objected to the petition filed by Republican District Leader Philip Grillo, alleging in a court filing that many “signatures were obtained by fraud” and forgery.

Grillo, a resident of Glen Oaks, well outside Council District 24, has no intention of actually running in District 24, according to people familiar with his campaign and a story last month in the Bukharian Times.

After submitting his campaign petitions before the Nov. 18 deadline, Grillo filed a declination that would allow a substitute candidate — Yakubov — to take over his ballot line. It’s an uncommon move in an open special election, where candidates run under made-up party names and not as Republicans or Democrats. Grillo has filed to run on the “Save Our City” line.

Yakubov did not provide a response for this story. He answered the phone Monday night and asked to talk later, but did not answer follow up calls or texts. Last month, he told the Bukharian Times that the Queens Republican Party approached him to run.

“I’ll speak about our values, which are conservative values,” he said Nov. 19. “The Bukharian people need a candidate who will lift them up and they will vote.”

Grillo and Queens GOP Chair Joann Ariola did not respond to requests for comment.

Gennaro questioned why the Queens County Republican Party didn’t just petition for Yakubov, who goes by Leo Jacobs professionally, in the first place.

“If the whole idea is that Yakubov wants to run, and if he’s got help from people who will carry his petitions, then just do that,” Gennaro said.

A person familiar with the Grillo/Yakubov campaign said the Queens GOP wanted to hold the ballot line for a conservative Bukharian candidate, but did not yet have one in mind when the abridged petitioning period began last month.

Gennaro and Grillo are just two of the eleven candidates vying to replace Lancman — a crowded field for the first test of ranked-choice voting.

Voters will have a chance to designate their top five choices for the office. If no candidate receives 50 percent of the vote, the last-place finisher is eliminated and voters who picked that candidate will have their second choice tallied. That process will continue until one candidate receives a majority of the vote

The Grillo/Yakubov maneuver makes the race a little more complicated.

But, Gennaro said, “at the end of the day, who’s ever on the ballot is on the ballot and we freaking deal with it.”

By David Brand – credit to