John Liu Discusses Tense Senate Race

Staff Writer

Photo by Luis Gronda John Liu stopped by the Queens Tribune office to talk about his run for State Senate against incumbent State Sen. Tony Avella.

Photo by Luis Gronda
John Liu stopped by the Queens Tribune office to talk about his run for State Senate against incumbent State Sen. Tony Avella.

By his own admission, a race for elected office was not something John Liu was considering for 2014. However, he said he saw an opportunity to make a difference in the State Senate.

Liu is challenging State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), who joined the Independent Democratic Conference earlier this year. Seen as a betrayal by the Queens Democratic Party, as the IDC has sided with the Republican Caucus, the group asked Liu to run against Avella for the seat. Liu made his announcement about six weeks ago in Bayside, surrounded by supporters, and has hit the ground running since then.

The IDC revealed a couple of weeks ago that it intends to work with the Democratic Caucus once again next year. As a result, a few of the challengers to various IDC members have dropped out of their respective races. Liu said though that Avella’s switch to that splinter group and its subsequent actions did not affect his run.

“That was never the thrust of my campaign. My thrust was, can I make a difference? And ultimately, people convinced me that I could. That’s the only reason I would run for office,” the former Comptroller said. “What happened two weeks ago with the IDC saying they’re going to come back to the Democratic fold, that makes it even more exciting, because instead of potentially having to wait a couple of years to be in the majority, I get to be in the majority right away.”

With regards to Avella, Liu said that he differed from his opponent in two significant ways. First, he said, was his willingness to collaborate with other elected officials.

“As a legislator, you have two prime objectives. Pass legislation that is going to improve the lives of your residents you represent, and bring back resources through the budget process, neither of which you can do without the support of your colleagues,” he said.

The second difference Liu mentioned was his optimism, a quality that he feels sets him apart from Avella.

“I realize there are problems and we need solutions. But I think the future is bright,” Liu said. “I’m not angry all the time. I can get pissed off at certain things but I’m not angry all the time.”

Liu also criticized Avella for introducing his own bill to reform the Queens Library, even though Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry (D-Corona) and State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) already had legislation in play and Avella’s bill had no Assembly counterpart. Liu said he was happy that the reform passed to make the library more accountable in the wake of its recent controversies.

If elected, Liu has a list of priorities, both in his district and in Albany. In northeast Queens, he mentioned that three big concerns of his are schools, parks and the police precincts. Specifically, Liu said all three needed more resources and funding, especially the 109th and 111th precincts that cover large areas in his district.

As for legislation, Liu said that an increase in the minimum wage and economic development that creates jobs are top priorities, as is the passage of the Women’s Equality Agenda. Liu blamed the latter’s failure in the State Senate on the Republican Caucus and IDC partnership.

“If the Democrats actually had control, because they are in the majority, it would have been passed last year,” he said. “It’s been bottled up because Republicans are controlling the agenda.”

This week, Liu announced the filing of 7,537 petition signatures with the Board of Elections as well as the endorsement of Borough President Melinda Katz. Even though Primary Day is still nine weeks away, Liu said he was confident that he would come out as the victor in the end.

“There has not been a Democratic primary in this district in a very long time,” he said. “I think we have it but I’m not taking anything for granted.”

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