Rev. Floyd Flake, a powerful clergy leader, has endorsed a Democrat to replace Queens Councilman Mark Weprin.
Mr. Flake, a former congressman and pastor of the Greater Allen African Methodist Episcopal Cathedral in Jamaica Queens, endorsed Barry Grodenchik today, becoming the second ex-congressman to back the Fresh Meadows Democrat.
“At a time when Queens residents feel like they are being squeezed out of the middle class, we need a person with great integrity who will put the needs of working New Yorkers first,” Mr. Flake said in a statement to the Observer. “Barry Grodenchik has proven through his three decades in public service that he will be the Council Member that Queens needs and deserves.”
“From his leadership on issues like co-op and condo equity, and his work keeping our communities safe, Barry Grodenchik has consistently demonstrated why he deserves our support,” Mr. Flake added.
Mr. Grodenchik, a former assemblyman, is a front-runner in a race that is expected to have at least two other candidates, civic leader Bob Friedrich and attorney Ali Najmi. Mr. Weprin is stepping aside this week to take a position with the Cuomo administration, opening up the eastern Queens seat for a September primary and November general election.
The district is beyond the boundaries of Mr. Flake’s Southeast Queens base. But Mr. Flake, a leader in the African-American community, could have some sway over the 12 percent of the district that is black.
His endorsement is also further evidence that the Democratic establishment, even if Mr. Flake has bucked it before, is coalescing around Mr. Grodenchik. The Queens Democratic Party is expected to support him and some labor unions could follow suit. (A candidate close to labor, Rebecca Lynch, would upset that calculus if she enters the race.)
The election is expected to be competitive, even with Mr. Grodenchik’s growing list of endorsements. The district, suburban in character, is one of the most diverse in the city, with a booming South Asian population and traditionally affluent Jewish and Italian-American communities. Mr. Najmi, as a Pakistani Muslim, would be a history-making candidate, and other Democrats from the growing Sikh and Hindu communities may emerge as well.