Allan Jennings' political career, which has spanned two terms as a Democratic city councilman in southeast Queens and numerous election defeats, has entered a new stage: Republican congressional candidate.
Jennings, a registered Democrat, is making his first run for Congress against Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-St. Albans) in the redrawn 5th Congressional District, which now includes Elmont, North and South Valley Stream and Inwood.
Jennings lost in the district's Democratic primary in June. The district, located primarily in Queens, is heavily Democratic.
"I have always been politically independent," said Jennings, 46. "I was elected to the City Council as an insurgent and did not get the party's support." He's running as a Republican because "I remain committed to serving the community to get things done. And, you can't change government from the outside."
Jennings, a real estate agent, said he wants to reduce the district's high rates of unemployment and home foreclosure. He would offer tax incentives to corporations that reverse job outsourcing efforts and would allow every homeowner a one-time modification of their mortgage rate without checks on their credit or employment.
Born in the Bronx and now a resident of South Ozone Park, Jennings received bachelor's and master's degrees from John Jay College of Criminal Justice. He worked as a mortgage banker before his election to the City Council in 2001 after several unsuccessful campaigns.
Jennings was a controversial figure during his four years as a city councilman, and opinions about him are divided.
"Allan has a convoluted sense of self," said City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), who was first elected the same year as Jennings. "It's all about his ego."
But Jamaica civic activist and former Democratic state committeeman Priestly Taylor, 90, remembered Jennings delivering laptop computers to elementary schools and answering questions from constituents at all hours.
"He's a very bright young man and cared very much for his district," said Taylor, who once served as Jennings' campaign manager.
In 2003, Jennings took out ads in the Queens-based World Journal and the Manhattan-based Sing Tao Daily, two Chinese-language newspapers, professing his love for a Chinese folk dancer he was dating. He denounced his estranged Taiwanese wife and her family, saying they would not embrace him because he is black. Jennings' then-wife said she was "shocked and scared" when she learned of the ads "because I just want a normal life."
Jennings defended the ads, contending they were meant to show his strong ties with the Chinese community. Jennings has since married and has an 8-year-old daughter and a 5-month-old son.
In 2005, the City Council censured Jennings, stripped him of his committee assignments and fined him $5,000 for creating a hostile work environment in his office, improperly terminating an employee and inappropriately using public resources.
Jennings was accused of sexually harassing two female staffers, including giving one a "pornographic" gift, according to the council's investigation. When Jennings refused to pay the $5,000 fine, the council announced that it had garnished Jennings' wages.
Jennings denied the allegations and said then-Council Speaker Gifford Miller retaliated against him for voting against an 18.5 percent property tax increase in 2002 that was supported by Democrats. Miller conceded that he stripped Jennings of his committee assignment because of the property tax vote.
In a 2003 speech on the floor of the Council chamber, Jennings said he was suffering persecution, like Jesus Christ. "Two thousand years ago, there was a man from Galilee who did not agree with Caesar, and he, too, was sacrificed and punished," Jennings said.
Jennings, who since 2005 has run unsuccessfully for his old Council seat and for the State Senate, defended his statements.
"I was not a member of their political club," he said in an interview. "I am going to do what's best for the people of my district."
Home South Ozone Park
Education Bachelor's and master's degrees from John Jay College of Criminal Justice
CAREER Two-term Democratic city councilman, 2001-2005. Worked previously as a mortgage banker
FAMILY Married with two children
Total campaign contributions* $16,099
Total spent $16,138
Cash on hand $-39
Figures through Sept. 29
*Excludes refunded contributions
Source: Federal Election Commission