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Police say Wills’ punch landed on aide to Jennings

TimesLedger Newspapers

Council candidate Ruben Wills on Friday took his campaign into his own hands — his fists, to be exact, police said.

Wills, who is running against City Councilman Thomas White (D-South Ozone Park), allegedly tried to strike a blow at rival Allan Jennings, according to the authorities.

Wills had challenged the former councilman’s 2,500 petition signatures to get on the ballot for next month’s Democratic primary and got into an argument with Jennings at the Board of Elections offices in Kew Gardens, according to the BOE spokeswoman, who was informed about the incident by the office’s chief clerk.

At one point, Wills allegedly got out of his seat and attempted to punch Jennings, but missed and struck Jennings volunteer Frank Perero in the chest, knocking him to the floor, the spokeswoman said.

“In all of my years, I’ve had more fierce arguments than this ... but no one gets violent over these issues. I was shocked,” Jennings said.

BOE workers restrained Wills after the slug and the police were called in, a BOE spokeswoman said.

A representative for the 102nd Precinct confirmed that officers responded to the incident and issued a report of harassment against Wills. No criminal charges were filed against Wills, according to police.

Perero, a Richmond Hill resident, said he was not seriously hurt, but did get an X-ray on his bruised chest Monday.

“I’m in very good health, but I was just concerned,” he said.

Wills did not return several phone calls for comment as of press time Tuesday. Jennings said Monday that Wills had not apologized for the incident.

Wills withdrew his signature challenge later that afternoon, according to the BOE.

Both men are seeking to be the Democratic councilman for the 28th District, which includes Richmond Hill, Ozone Park, Jamaica and Rochdale Village.

Jennings, who served as councilman for the district from 2002-06, said Wills was determined to get him off the ballot and persisted in having all his signatures checked despite objections from his own lawyers.

“The whole thing was a waste of taxpayer time and money,” he said.

Jennings is no stranger to controversy himself.

In April 2005, he was censured by the Council on sexual harassment charges and lost the Democratic Party’s backing during his re-election later that year. He would go on to lose the primary to White, his predecessor.

Both Jennings and Wills were involved in unsuccessful campaigns last year.

Wills was removed from the Democratic primary ballot in his race against U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) after many of his campaign signatures were declared invalid by the BOE. He held several protests against the board, but was never put back on the ballot.

Jennings ran against state Sen. Shirley Huntley (D-Jamaica) in the Democratic primary, but lost to the incumbent by 4,196 votes.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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