Rebel state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), the vocal populist whose move into the Senate's Independent Democratic Conference angered the party establishment and prompted a primary challenge from former City Councilman and Comptroller John Liu, has now won the backing of a key congressman in his re-election campaign.
Avella was endorsed on Friday by Rep. Steve Israel (D-Suffolk, Nassau, Queens), who only started to represent part of this borough in 2013, thanks to post-2010 Census redistricting, but is a veteran lawmaker and chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
The endorsement therefore pits the Queens Democratic political establishment against the national Democratic political establishment.
In a prepared statement announcing the endorsement, Israel said Avella has been an ally on important issues such as providing services to seniors and ensuring community input on airline flight patterns, which recently were changed in such a way that northeastern Queens has had to put up with increased noise.
“When Congressional redistricting brought me to Queens, Senator Avella was one of the first elected officials to reach out," Israel said. "He partnered with me on combating airplane noise, fighting for our veterans and standing up for New York's middle-class families. I've seen firsthand his relentless work ethic and dedication to his district. For these reasons, I endorse Tony Avella’s candidacy."
Avella, who represents the 11th District, said, “During my time in office, Congressman Israel and I have worked together to fight for increased services for veterans, the protection of our seniors and middle class families, and to keep our communities free of airplane noise. I am honored to have his support and look forward to continue working together to make sure that our constituents' voices are heard in Washington and Albany.”
Avella also has the backing of Mayor de Blasio, while Liu is favored by Queens officials including state Sen. Mike Gianaris (D-Astoria), chairman of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee. A number of unions, key to getting out the vote in Democratic primaries, are backing Liu, including the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 3 and the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators. Avella is backed by the Communication Workers of America, District 1.
On the fundraising front, Liu is way ahead of Avella. As of Wednesday, when the latest figures were required by law to be reported, Liu said he had raised more than $508,000 and had $444,000 left in the bank, while Avella reported bringing in $132,000, with $89,000 on hand.
The state Senate IDC comprises five Democratic senators who broke with the party to caucus with the Republicans. The move meant that the GOP and IDC are in charge of the Senate, even though Democrats had won a slight majority of the seats there.