BY JOE MARVILLI
State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) called the Democratic Primary Election in his favor Tuesday night, although his opponent, John Liu, refused to concede.
With 95.4 percent of the polls reporting in the race for State Senate District 11 Wednesday morning, Avella garnered 52.2 percent of the vote, equal to 6,813 ballots. Liu trails by 568 votes. Although Liu’s campaign said that there are around 1,000 paper ballots still to be counted, Avella was confident that his victory was assured.
“We feel the lead that we have is impossible for him to overcome,” the Senator said at his election night party at C.J. Sullivan’s American Grill in Bayside.
The victory party featured civic supporters, union leaders, a representative for U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Melville) and fellow Independent Democratic Conference member, State Sen. David Valesky (D-Syracuse). Avella’s move to the IDC, which caucused with Senate Republicans last session, was the tipping point for Liu’s entry into the race. The Queens Democratic Party, which said they felt Avella had “betrayed” them, backed Liu from day one.
Avella said his win proved it was possible to go against the Queens Democratic Party and still come out on top.
“The victory tonight wasn’t just about my campaign. It was a larger issue about elected officials having independence to vote the way they think is important for their district and in this case, the entire State. It’s a message to people that they can take on the political machine and beat it,” he said. “Liu had all the resources. He had four times as much money. He had all of what I call ‘Crowley’s cronies.’ And we still won. I think that’s an important message for people in the Borough of Queens.”
Over at Vivaldi Ristorante, also in Bayside, U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), Borough President Melinda Katz, Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D-Hillcrest), Councilmen Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) and Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest) all made appearances at Liu’s party.
Around 10:30 p.m. Tuesday night, Liu appeared before his supporters and said the election was too close to call. The former Comptroller said that every ballot needed to be counted before a winner could be determined, a process that he said would take a few days to a week. Even without a clear win, Liu called his campaign a success for getting the IDC to partner with the Democratic Party in the State Senate again next year.
“Our campaign has succeeded already. In fact, it succeeded a number of weeks ago when we were successful in getting some so-called Democrats to actually promise that they were actually going to be Democrats,” Liu said.
The last few months of the District 11 race featured attacks from both sides, with Liu slamming Avella for joining the IDC and the Senator hitting Liu over investigations into his campaign for Mayor last year.
While Liu added that he ran an “honest and clean campaign,” Avella disagreed.
“I was turned off totally by the negative campaign John Liu ran. It’s just an example of how politics isn’t getting better, it’s getting worse,” he said. “That’s why I think winning this election was so very important, to send a message that you can run an honest campaign, you can be honest and still win against the machine.”
Reach Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @JoeMarvilli.