By Michael Gareth Johnson
In a video message and through press release sent out midday Monday, incumbent state Senator Tony Avella announced that he would be continuing his campaign for reelection on the Independence Party ballot line and the Women’s Equality ballot line, after being defeated in the Democratic primary on September 13 by John Liu. His decision creates a potentially wide-open four-way race in the 11th district between Avella, Liu, Republican Vickie Paladino and Conservative Simon Minching.
Avella’s decision could have impact far outside the state Senate. Currently, Republicans hold a narrow advantage in the chamber of one seat. Democrats, hopeful that national sentiment will bring a “blue wave” to New York and help them retake the chamber, were banking on holding this seat easily, allowing them to invest time and money in other districts
If Avella wins the seat, he could hold immense sway in the state Senate, much like Simcha Felder has for the past several years. The Brooklyn state Senator is a registered Democrat who has conferenced with Republicans in recent years in order to increase his influence and power. Alternately, if Avella was able to pull votes from Liu, he could open the door for another candidate to sneak in.
This scenario seems less likely of a scenario in the heavily Democratic district. Of the 186K registered voters roughly 103K are Democrats while only 33K are Republicans.
Calculating Avella’s chances in the district is difficult. Polling is unreliable because of the ethnic makeup, where Asian-Americans are often underrepresented in polls. Also, third party candidates often over perform in polls compared to the ballot box.
Still, Avella is confident that he has a base of support. In his statement, Avella said he was urged to run by Families for Tony Avella, which he describes as a grassroots group, and suggested his opponents are not fit for office.
“They feel that the Republican candidate, perhaps well intentioned, has no experience in government and no knowledge of the issues our communities face or how to deal with them. Many more have expressed shock that disgraced and scandal ridden John Liu won the Democratic primary. They feel John Liu is an embarrassment to the community and are very afraid of the negative impact on the community if he is elected.”
In 2013, John Liu was denied matching campaign funds for his run for mayor after his campaign treasurer was arrested for illegally funneling donations to his campaign. Liu was never charged with any crime in the incident.
The 11th state Senate district is made up of College Point, Whitestone, Bayside, Auburndale, Glen Oaks, Little Neck, Fresh Meadows and other neighborhoods.