Following a contentious campaign, six-time incumbent state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) defeated attorney John Messer in the race to represent the 16th District in the Democratic primary last Thursday.
Stavisky, 74, faced challenger, Messer, 41, an attorney from Oakland Gardens, in the race to represent the 16th District, which runs from Woodside and Elmhurst to Oakland Gardens and parts of Bayside, Fresh Meadows, Forest Hills and Rego Park. It encompasses 60 percent of Stavisky’s old district.
An intern with the Stavisky campaign had said, “We’ve had good feedback, but she’s definitely not that well known here because of redistricting,” earlier on Thursday at a polling site in Flushing.
Preliminary primary results reported Stavisky with 58 percent and 4,940 votes and Messer with 42 percent and 3,575 votes.
Early on, supporters at the Sheraton LaGuardia East Hotel in Flushing anticipated a long night, as the candidates traded places for the lead, with 18 per cent of the ballots counted.
By 10:30 p.m.,90 minutes after the polls closed, Stavisky arrived and announced, “We appear to be ahead by about 1,200 votes,” and addressed her supporters.
“I want to thank the voters. You’re the ones to whom I report,” she said, also thanking fellow elected officials and members of her staff.
Naming job creation, raising the minimum wage and education as “issues that are significant to us,” Stavisky said that she and her fellow Democratic office holders “are a united Flushing. We represent the face of the united Flushing. Let us remember the principles of the Democratic party. Let’s go onto a big victory for everyone in November.”
Stavisky will face Republican J.D. Kim, an attorney, in the Nov. 6 general election.
Among those on hand were political allies including Karen Koslowitz, who said of Stavisky’s victory, “It’s very big for me. We’ve shared a district. I’m excited to continue working with her. She works hard. People know it and tonight showed it.”
She conceded that “this was a rough race,” alluding to Messer’s spending $500,000 on his campaign. “That’s a lot of money to have to beat someone,” Koslowitz said.
When it became clear that Stavisky had won the night, her son Evan, a campaign strategist, said, of Messer, “He lost in his own backyard,” a reference to his defeat in his own neighborhood.
No love has been lost between the two candidates, who had been flinging barbs at each other throughout the campaign.
Fliers accusing Stavisky of funneling public money to benefit The Parkside Group, her son’s special interest lobbying firm, had been distributed.
At a face-to-face debate between the two candidates on Aug. 29, Stavisky referred to the handout as “scurrilous.”
At that event, Stavisky said of Messer, “My opponent has been a Republican most of the time he’s been here.” Messer moved to Queens from Michigan in 1991.
One Stavisky supporter, Dianne Sandler, regretted that Stavisky is no longer her representative, the result of recent redistricting.
“She has been one of the best representatives for education, senior citizens, things that are important to the middle class. She is loyal, she is honest, she is fair. In my opinion, she is a true lady.”
Guests at Messer’s campaign party, held at the restaurant he owns, Mamajuana Cafe in Woodside, were temporarily elated when preliminary results came in from two polling sites showing winning results. However, as the night went on faces fell.
“It doesn’t look good,” a Messer supporter said quietly to another guest at his table at 11 p.m.