Avella/Liu State Senate Race Heats Up

BY JOE MARVILLI
Staff Writer

As the legislative session begins to wrap up and attention turns toward the summer campaign season, one of the biggest races in Queens is starting to escalate.

A war of words was exchanged last week between State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and his expected primary opponent, former Comptroller John Liu, after the Working Families Party decided to endorse the latter in the battle for State Senate District 11.

State Sen. Tony Avella and his primary challenger John Liu both made an appearance at the Whitestone D-Day ceremony on June 6. A war of words broke out last week between the two when the Working Families Party endorsed Liu. Photo by Jordan Gibbons

State Sen. Tony Avella and his primary challenger John Liu both made an appearance at the Whitestone D-Day ceremony on June 6. A war of words broke out last week between the two when the Working Families Party endorsed Liu. Photo by Jordan Gibbons

The WFP endorsement was made official on June 12, giving him the backing of both the WFP and the Queens Democratic Party.

“The Working Families Party is proud to endorse John Liu for State Senate, and we look forward to welcoming him as a key member of the Democrat-Working Families majority that will fight for a New York that works for all of us,” Bill Lipton, WFP State Director, said.

Accepting the endorsement, Liu said that the coalition in the State Senate between the Republican caucus and the Independent Democratic Conference, which Avella joined earlier this year, was not successful and change was needed.

“The Republicans and their allies in the Senate have had ample chances to make New York a better place for working women and men and they’ve failed,” Liu said. “Whether it’s passing the DREAM Act, pushing for reforms to our housing laws that create and preserve truly affordable housing, or fighting for a public campaign finance system that finally brings fair elections to New York, I will relentlessly pursue the policies and reforms that make this State a fair and equitable place to live and work.”

The same day that the WFP endorsed Liu, Avella’s campaign released a statement taking a shot at both the party and the candidate. It brought up the continued probe into the WFP by a special prosecutor, in regards to the party’s role in a 2009 City Council race in Staten Island. The statement also takes Liu to task for the arrests of two campaign staffers in the run-up to his 2013 bid for Mayor.

“Just days after the Court of Appeals ruled that a special prosecutor was permitted to continue its criminal investigation into the Working Families Party, they are now shamelessly backing a disgraced candidate for State Senate who comes with his own ethical lapses,” Avella spokeswoman Heather Sager said. “But this should come as no surprise as both the WFP and John Liu have their own cherished history of backroom deals, reduced-rate-in-kind contributions for City office and alleged campaign violations that bring utter disgust to our democratic process.”

Avella also vowed to raise $100,000 for his re-election campaign, stating during a televised interview that he has commitments for that amount. He also criticized the Queens Democratic Party for turning against him after he joined the IDC.

“I think it’s unfortunate that the Democratic Party bosses are trying to disenfranchise the candidate this district has elected time and time again,” he said.

Since Liu threw his name into the race, he has picked up an assortment of endorsements from organizations including the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, Communities for Change, Communications Workers of America Local 1180, Tenants PAC, United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1500 and the Hotel Trades Council.

Reach Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, jmarvilli@queenstribune.com, or @JoeMarvilli.