Two Political Futures - Maybe Three - At Stake
May 28, 2014 | 11207 views | 0 0 comments | 1387 1387 recommendations | email to a friend | print
If you have even a passing interest in New York City or Queens politics, you've no doubt heard by now that there is a major political throw down about to happen in northeast Queens. Or as some are calling it “The Double Homicide in Bayside,” “The Fray in Flushing,” “The Wreck in Little Neck,” the “2014 State Senate Democratic Primary.”

Yes, two political heavyweights are about to battle it our for a post in the State Senate: the man who currently holds the seat, Tony Avella, and former comptroller John Liu. Both are seasoned political professionals who know their way around a campaign, as well as a thing or two about getting elected to office.

You have Liu with the support of the Democratic Primary and a reputation for prodigious fundraising on the one hand, and then you have Avella who has a passionate and rabid support base who will no doubt be energized to keep him in office.

But before we get to what we really want to discuss, we think that, politically speaking, Liu has a lot more to lose here. After a disappointing run for mayor last year that culminated with the Campaign Finance Board withholding matching funds because of the issues surrounding his fundraising strategies, Liu finds himself out of elective office for the first time since 2001.

(Coincidentally, that is the same year Avella began his stint in public office, as both men were elected to the City Council the same year.)

Liu probably could have easily held onto his citywide post as comptroller had he chosen to, but he rolled the dice and launched a mayoral campaign. However, losing in the Democratic Primary for mayor wasn't that big of a deal politically, considering all of the negative attention surrounding his campaign and the fact that the Democratic field was crowded with experienced politicians.

On the other hand, losing a one-on-one showdown with Avella in this primary could put any future political aspirations Liu might have on ice for awhile, as it would be hard to mount another serious run for office after losing two in a row.

And if he were to run for office again, any post he could hope for would entail taking on a political candidate that hasn't fallen out of favor with the Queens Democratic Party the way Avella has. In fact, Liu might have seen this as his last viable and realistic shot to get back into elected office and still work within county politics.

But Avella is in a different position. If he loses this primary, supporters will generally view him as a victim of machine politics at its worst, with party bosses going after a popular candidate simply because he dared to defy them by joining the ranks of the Independent Democratic Conference, a group of breakaway state senators that works with the Republicans in a power-sharing agreement in the legislature.

Avella won't be viewed as a man who lost a primary; he will be viewed as someone who had his seat taken from him by forces simply too powerful to challenge.

And at that point Avella's relationship with the Queens Democratic Party will be so completely shattered he will have nothing to lose by running against party-backed candidates for another office. Avella's strongest base of support is in Bayside, Flushing and Douglaston, or in other words, Paul Vallone's City Council district.

If Avella loses this primary and his State Senate seat, what's to stop him from trying to go after his old seat in the City Council, which he gave up after two terms in 2009 – even though the City Council voted for a one-time extension that would have allowed him to run a third time – to mount his own failed campaign for mayor?

Avella is so popular in those neighborhoods we think that he could overcome whatever political capital Vallone might have built up as an incumbent, and give him a serious run for his money. If Liu loses this primary, his political career might be over, at least for a while, but if Avella loses we wouldn't be surprised to see him back campaigning sooner rather than later.

But do we ever digress! All we wanted to mention was that in addition to the two political heavyweights who will be battling it out on the campaign trail, Liu brought another name into the picture during his announcement last week.

He said he expected Governor Andrew Cuomo to be very active in helping defeat IDC candidates to help the Democrats regain a true majority in the State Senate. And by “very active” we assume that Liu meant campaigning and fundraising for both Liu and Oliver Koppell, who is challenging State Senator Jeff Klein, the head of the IDC, in the Bronx.

We'll be interested to see if there is an big splashy formal endorsement forthcoming.

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