VOTE 2018 — A Guide To Queens Elections
Politicians have often said in campaign seasons that “this is the most important election of your lifetime.” The phrase is so overused that many voters have become numb to the the line — like those who repeatedly heard the boy cry wolf. This year, we are hearing the phrase again.
It’s hard to make the argument that this election is more consequential than that of 2016, when Donald Trump was elected president; Republicans won control of both chambers of Congress; and here in New York State, the GOP narrowly held on to the state Senate once again.
On a national level, this year’s election may be one of the most important of our lives. In Queens, though, the stakes aren’t as high. The borough remains solidly Democratic, as does the state; likely all the candidates with Ds next to their names on the ballot that Queens residents will fill out are going to win on Nov. 6. If they don’t it will be an immense upset.
This may leave many wondering why you should go out to vote. The reason may not be what is on the front of the ballot, but rather what is on the back. There are three questions that will have a lasting impact on how the city’s political systems function — as outlined in our story on the cover of this week’s newspaper.
We hope this guide will help you make your decision at the polls. Also, please remember to flip your ballot when you vote.
GOVERNOR — Andrew Cuomo (D) vs. Marc Molinaro (R) vs. Howie Hawkins (G) vs. Larry Sharpe (LIB) vs. Stephanie Miner (SAM)
Incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo is seeking his third term as governor. After defeating challenger Cynthia Nixon in the September primary, he has toned down his campaign efforts a little, holding only one debate against his Republican challenger Marc Molinaro. Cuomo has been touting his record of accomplishment, while also promising to stand against President Trump’s policies and attacking Molinaro for his support of Trump. Molinaro has attacked Cuomo for several scandals that have plagued his administration. The other candidates in the race are Howie Hawkins from the Green Party; Larry Sharpe from the Libertarian Party; and Stephanie Miner, a Democrat and former mayor of Syracuse who is running on the Serve America Movement ballot line. All three have struggled to gain attention. Hawkins, who ran for governor in 2014 and received roughly 5 percent of the vote, has said he is a “Plan B” for progressives who supported Cynthia Nixon’s campaign. Both Sharpe and Miner have talked about the exodus of people from New York over the years. Sharpe blames the emigration on the state’s high taxes. Miner says the corrupt governance of both parties has made the state undesirable for recent college graduates.
LT. GOVERNOR — Kathy Hochul (D) vs. Julie Killian (R) vs. Jia Lee (G) vs. Andrew Hollister (LIB) vs. Michael Volpe (SAM)
Incumbent Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul is running for her second term as Cuomo’s running mate. She will be on the ballot with Cuomo. Her Republican, Green party, Libertarian and Serve America Movement party challengers will also be on the ballot with their respective candidates for governor.
ATTORNEY GENERAL — Letitia James (D) vs. Keith Wofford (R) vs. Michael Sussman (G) vs. Christopher Garvey (LIB) vs. Nancy Sliwa (REFORM)
Democrat Letitia “Tish” James won a contested Democratic primary battle in September to fill the seat previously held by Eric Schneiderman, who resigned after mounting allegations of physical violence towards women in his personal life. James, the current public advocate for New York City, is challenged by Republican Keith Wofford, a Buffalo native who has argued that the attorney general’s office should only focus on upholding the law and not be used to apply pressure on powerful industries like Wall Street banks, which several recent AGs have made the centerpiece of their efforts. Green Party candidate Michael Sussman has focused his campaign on government corruption, arguing that an independent prosecutor is needed in the office. This is a position echoed by Reform party candidate Nancy Sliwa. Libertarian candidate Chris Garvey has also said he would focus on prosecuting government corruption, but has advocated as well for a narrow enforcement of laws in the Libertarian view, saying he would not enforce any law he felt violated the U.S. Constitution.
COMPTROLLER — Thomas DiNapoli (D) vs. Jonathan Trichter (R) vs. Mark Dunlea (G) vs. Cruger Gallaudet (LIB)
Democrat Thomas DiNapoli is the longest-serving elected official in statewide government, having been in office since 2007, when he was appointed through a special election. The Nassau County native was re-elected narrowly in 2010; in 2014, he received the most votes of any statewide candidate. This year, he is being challenged by Republican Jonathan Trichter, who has campaigned on saving New Yorkers billions through audits that are not politicized and by shining a light on the costs of public pensions. Green Party candidate Mark Dunlea has focused his campaign on forcing the comptroller’s office to completely divest itself of fossil fuels because of the growing threat of climate change. Libertarian Cruger Gallaudet has positioned himself as a watchdog of New York’s fiscal health.
U.S. SENATE — Kirsten Gillibrand (D) vs. Chele Farley (R)
Gillibrand was appointed to the U.S. Senate in 2009 by then-Gov. David Paterson. She went on to run in and win a special election in 2010, and was then elected to a full six-year term in 2012. She is often talked about as a potential presidential candidate in 2020. In recent years, she has been arguably the Senate’s fiercest advocate for women’s rights, and one of the staunchest critics of Donald Trump. Her Republican opponent, Chele Farley, is an engineer and a partner at a financial equity firm. She has called for New York to get a larger share of federal funding, attacked Gillibrand for not being fully supportive of Israel, and advocated for lower taxes in the state. She has also pledged to serve only two terms in the Senate if elected.
Queens has seven members of Congress representing parts of the borough, and six of them have contested races this year. Currently, all seats in the district are held by Democrats.
3rd District — Tom Suozzi (D) vs. Dan DeBono (R)
Democrat Tom Suozzi was elected to office in 2016 and is seeking re-election to his district, which stretches from Suffolk County through Nassau County and into the eastern edge of Queens representing Little Neck, Whitestone, Glen Oaks and Floral Park. The former Nassau County executive is being challenged by former Navy Seal Dan DeBono, who is campaigning on strengthening the middle class, improving infrastructure and increasing military spending.
6th District — Grace Meng (D) vs. Thomas Hillgardner (G)
Rep. Meng is seeking her fourth term representing Flushing, Bayside, Forest Hills, Kew Gardens, Rego Park, Maspeth and several other communities in Queens. Meng is the first Asian American to represent New York in Congress. She is being challenged by Thomas Hillgardner, who has spent decades advocating for tenants and was an early supporter of Bernie Sanders in the 2016 presidential election.
7th District — Nydia Velázquez (D) vs. Jeffrey Kurzon (REFORM) vs. Joseph Lieberman ©
This district stretches from Manhattan through Brooklyn and into Maspeth and Ridgewood in Queens. Rep. Velázquez is seeking her 14th term in Congress and is being challenged by Conservative Joseph Lieberman and Reform Party candidate Jeffrey Kurzon.
8th District — Hakeem Jeffries (D) vs. Ernest Johnson © vs. Jessica White (REFORM)
While the district is mostly in Brooklyn, it does stretch into Howard Beach and Ozone Park. Democrat Hakeem Jeffries is seeking his fourth term in office. He is being challenged by Conservative Ernest Johnson and Reform Party candidate Jessica White.
12th District — Carolyn Maloney (D) vs. Eliot Rabin (R) vs. Scott Hutchins (G)
Mainly in Manhattan, this district extends into Long Island City and Roosevelt Island. Rep. Maloney is seeking her 14th term in office and is facing a challenge from Republican Eliot Rabin, a small-business owner who has focused his campaign on education reform and improving the civility in politics. Green Party candidate Scott Hutchins is also seeking the seat, running on a platform of combating corporate welfare, creating affordable housing, and creating a public banking system in the state.
14th District — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D) vs. Anthony Pappas (R) vs. Rep. Joe Crowley (WFP) vs. Elizabeth Perri (C)
Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shot onto the political scene with her upset primary victory over incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley in June. Since then, she has been crisscrossing the country promoting progressive candidates, while also knocking on doors back here in her district, discussing her platform of Medicare for all, rolling back corporate tax breaks, and providing better education opportunities for all residents. Her primary opponent, Crowley, will also appear on the ballot on the Working Families Party line and Women’s Equality Party line, but he has not actively campaigned for the seat since his loss, even though there has been some underground efforts to get people to pull the lever for the incumbent as the Tribune has reported. Republican Anthony Pappas was recently disavowed by the Queens Republican party after accusations surfaced of domestic violence against his ex-wife. Conservative candidate Elizabeth Perri is running for the district for a second time, after losing in 2014. The district represents Astoria, College Point, East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights and Woodside, and stretches into the Bronx.
A lot of eyes across the state will be on the battle for the state Senate. Republicans hold a narrow edge in the chamber, and if Democrats can pick up just one seat they will take control, potentially giving the party all levers of power in government. In Queens, the races are not expected to factor into that determination. Democrats are heavy favorites in all the races being contested.
11th District — John Liu (D) vs. Tony Avella (Ind) vs. Vickie Paladino (R) vs. Simon Minching (C)
This race is likely the most interesting in the borough, as former city Comptroller John Liu is in a four-way race that includes his Democratic primary opponent and incumbent Tony Avella — who decided to continue to campaign after narrowly losing the September primary election. Liu has campaigned on pushing a progressive agenda for the district, which includes Fresh Meadows, Bayside, Whitestone and neighboring communities. Liu has also suggested that Avella’s decision to join a group of breakaway Democrats known as the Independent Democratic Caucus (IDC) empowered Republicans and hurt the district. Avella has countered by saying he is a fighter for his constituents, and has leveled corruption charges against Liu because members of Liu’s 2013 mayoral campaign were charged with campaign finance violations. The race also features Republican Vickie Paladino, whose campaign has focused on keeping jails out of the community by keeping Rikers Island open. She also advocates for keeping the SHSAT test for high school students. Conservative Simon Minching, who was defeated by Paladino in the GOP primary in September, has campaigned on reducing taxes and other costs hindering business, and has called for education reform.
13th District — Jessica Ramos (D) vs. José Peralta (Ind)
In the September Democratic primary, Jessica Ramos defeated incumbent José Peralta. Since the election, Peralta has not campaigned for the seat, but he will appear on the Independence Party line, as well as the Reform Party and Women’s Equality Party line.
15th District — Joe Addabbo (D) vs. Thomas Sullivan (R)
Representing parts of Southeast Queens stretching from the Rockaways to Maspeth, Addabbo has been in office since 2009. The Democratic state Senator has campaigned on his ability to get things done in Albany, even though he has been a member of the minority party. His opponent, Republican Tom Sullivan, has touted his career as an Army colonel in his stump speeches, saying he will be able to get things done in the state legislature. He has advocated for lower property taxes and better environmental protections for the Rockaways during his campaign.
16th District — Toby Ann Stavisky (D) vs. Vincent Pazienza (REFORM)
Toby Ann Stavisky has represented the district, which stretches from Woodside to Bay Terrace, since 1999, when her husband, Leonard, died and she won a special election to replace him. A former Social Studies teacher, she has been an advocate for education funding for Queens during her tenure. She is being challenged by Vincent Pazienza.
Thanks to decades of gerrymandering in New York, which has allowed Republicans to draw their lines in the state Senate and Democrats to draw their lines in the Assembly, only seven of the 18 Assembly seats have contested races this November. Eleven incumbent Democrats are already preparing for their next term in Albany. Here’s a quick look at the races being contested.
23rd District — Stacey Pheffer Amato (D) vs. Matthew Pecorino (R)
In this district, encompassing Rockaway, Ozone Park, Howard Beach and neighboring communities, Pheffer Amato is seeking a second term. The seat was previously held by her mom, the current Queens County Clerk Audrey Pheffer, for more than 20 years. Pheffer Amato’s opponent, Matthew Pecorino, has been campaigning on a platform of implementing term limits and of lowering property taxes by extending the state’s 2 percent property tax cap to New York City.
26th District — Ed Braunstein (D) vs. David Bressler (R)
Braunstein is seeking his fifth term in office representing Bayside and parts of Whitestone and Little Neck. He has been an advocate for maintaining the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT) in New York City and has called for reforming the city’s property tax system. His opponent, David Bressler, has campaigned against closing Rikers Island and railed against elected officials who have suggested that New York State and New York City should be sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants.
28th District — Andrew Hevesi (D) vs. Danniel S. Maio (R)
Hevesi has been in office since he won a special election in 2005, representing Forest Hills, Rego Park and neighboring areas. He is the son of former city and state comptroller Alan Hevesi. He has been an advocate for increasing wages for workers. Hevesi is being challenged by Republican Danniel Maio. In 2016, Maio challenged Rep. Grace Meng for Congress and was defeated.
30th District — Brian Barnwell (D) vs. Eric Butkiewicz (R)
After fending off a primary challenge from Melissa Sklarz, Barnwell is looking for a second term in office representing Maspeth, Middle Village, Woodside and neighboring areas. He has been an advocate for tax relief for seniors and the middle class. His opponent, Eric Butkiewicz, has campaigned on a platform of standing up against Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, specifically on overdevelopment and the implementation of homeless shelters in the district.
33rd District — Clyde Vanel (D) vs. Lalita Etwaroo (R)
Vanel is seeking his second term representing Cambria Heights, St. Albans, Hollis and neighboring communities. In his first term, he proposed a host of bills addressing issues arising from rapidly advancing technology, including legislation to regulate cryptocurrency, artificial intelligence and sports betting. His opponent, Lalita Etwaroo, is a Guyanese immigrant who is campaigning on a platform of combating corruption and protecting the SHSAT.
39th District — Catalina Cruz (D) vs. Ari Espinal (WFP) vs. Bobby Kalotee (REFORM)
Democrat Catalina Cruz defeated incumbent Assemblywoman Ari Espinal in the September Democratic primary. While Espinal is not actively campaigning for the seat, her name will appear on the Working Families Party ballot line. Bobby Kalotee is the chair of the Queens County Reform Party, former vice chair of the Nassau County Republican Party, and former chair of the Nassau County Independence Party, and was a candidate for lt. governor in 2014.
40th District — Ron Kim (D) vs. John Scandalios (R)
Assemblyman Ron Kim is seeking his fourth term in office representing parts of Flushing, College Point and Whitestone. He was the first Korean American to be elected in the state. He is being challenged by Republican John Scandalios, who is advocating for less regulation on small businesses, lower taxes and term limits for elected officials.