Is Liu Challenge Opening a Door for GOP?
by Anthony Stasi
May 28, 2014 | 12418 views | 0 0 comments | 625 625 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Queens County Democratic Party nominating former Comptroller John Liu to challenge incumbent Democratic State Senator Tony Avella may signal a chance for the Republicans to win back the seat once held comfortably by Frank Padavan.

Padavan has fought off the temptation to jump back into politics and regain his old seat, but the current unrest in the Democratic Party in this district could be an open door for a formidable GOP candidate.

The coming Democratic Primary means that the Queens County Republicans can sit on the sidelines and, for a change, watch another party engage in civil war. Avella has always been a Democrat with an independent streak, and when he joined a group of centrist Democrats who often caucus with Senate Republicans, county Democrats balked.

This leaves open a question: do parties want politicians to work across the aisle on pragmatic policy or do they want party loyalists? It’s a dilemma for both parties. Winning a primary means being a loyalist. Being more connected to the people you actually represent means governing more in the center.

Avella defeated Padavan due in part because the strong middle class in the 11th District saw him as a conservative Democrat. John Liu is a strong progressive candidate, and by challenging Avella, he signals a potential change in the party itself.

Sure districts change over time, but is the 11th District really changing ideologically? Are the Democrats in Albany seeking a leftward tilt?

A race between Avella and Liu is welcome news for the county Republicans, who - if they can get their house in order - can spend some time gearing up for a real general election challenge. This is one of the rare places in New York City where a primary win does not automatically mean a general election victory for the Demcorats.

If Liu defeats Avella in a primary, it would also signify redemption for Liu, who saw his career momentum buckled by campaign finance inconsistencies. John Liu has more to win here than the Queens County Democratic Party does.

The party has the seat now, even if Avella is not a slam dunk on all issues. Even if they lose the seat, they can win it back eventually. Liu, however, has a lot more at stake. If he wins, he is back and the past is the past.

This is going to be high drama in the 11th from now until Election Day. Political junkies like to refer to the “invisible primary,” which is an amalgam of endorsements. In the invisible primary, it will be interesting to see which established Democrats side with Liu and which side with Avella.

Memorial Day

What I always remember about Memorial and Veterans days is a conversation I had years ago with a friend named John Scola. Scola was a decorated Vietnam veteran who came back to the states and Long Island, first finding work in the bricklayers union and later as a technician in cable television, where we worked together.

He had a quiet, dignified, although a little unpolished, sense of ethics and right and wrong. He was a good advice guy on things like fishing and military matters. We lost John to a heart attack a few years ago, but one thing he said stood out.

He always felt that sports arenas and event spaces – especially those named after veterans – should offer veterans half-priced tickets to any and all events.

The Barclays Center should adopt this policy, and in a more obvious note, so ought the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. We cannot venerate our servicemen and women with the salaries of pro athletes, but we can make it easier for them to be courtside.

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