When the county Democratic Party endorses a candidate for the 26th Assembly District race later this month, one factor under consideration will be how well that person’s ideals match those of Tony Avella.
Avella, the former 19th District councilman, is the party’s pick to run for the 11th District state Senate seat held by 38-year incumbent Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose). Since the Senate district overlaps the Assembly area, the two Democratic nominees will be running as a team, Avella said.
The Queens Democrats will endorse an Assembly candidate at the end of the month and Avella said he will be involved in that decision. “I don’t think there is a front-runner at this time,” he said. “All the candidates will be evaluated. We want to put a good team together.”
So far, four Democrats have announced they are running for the seat: Elio Forcina, a Whitestone attorney with no political background; Matthew Silverstein of Bay Terrace, president of the state Young Democrats; Ed Braunstein, of Bayside, who works for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver; and Steve Behar, a Bayside attorney.
Two Republicans are also in the race. They are Vince Tabone and Rob Speranza.
In announcing his candidacy, Behar promises to continue his campaign even if he doesn’t get his party’s support, but would welcome it. “I’m the only candidate with long-time community service in northeast Queens,” he said. “I have worked on every political campaign in the last decade, done graffiti cleanups, fought overdevelopment and worked with civics on rezoning.”
He agrees that the Democrats’ choice for the Assembly seat will campaign with Avella and “you need a reformer, not the status quo. Why risk losing the Assembly seat by picking someone else?”
Behar, who finished fourth out of six in the Democratic primary last year for Avella’s council seat, said reforming state government is of foremost importance, “because anything else won’t happen without it.”
Since Behar believes transparency is a must in Albany, he pointed to Braunstein’s connection to Silver, who has been called one of “three men in a room,” with the governor and the Senate majority leader, who make all the decisions in Albany.
“Anyone who is working for the leadership in Albany has no business talking about reform and transparency,” Behar said. “It’s because of the current leadership that we need reform. You’re part of the problem if you work for the leadership.”
Avella concurred that working for Silver is not a plus in the election. “Braunstein will have to defend his position on what has to be changed and the need for transparency in government,” he said.
Braunstein said he has distanced himself from Silver, adding, “I do constituent service work on the Lower East Side, not in Albany. I will be an independent voice,” he said. “We need more transparency in Albany and I will bring that out in my campaign.”
Braunstein has cited his energy and passion as setting him apart. “Albany is a disgrace,” he said. “Elected officials, both Republicans and Democrats, are going to jail, while the governor is under investigation. All the while, special interests yield enormous influence behind the scenes. Enough is enough.”
He wants integrity and honesty in government service. “We need to bring a new era of transparency so we know exactly what’s happening with our money,” Braunstein said.
Silverstein, who serves as a project director for America Works, believes Albany needs someone who knows the neighborhood. “The legislature is completely broken and we could have better representation,” he said.
Silverstein indicated voters should judge candidates on what they’ve done, “who has been there, grew up there and who is fighting for local issues,” he said. “People should want someone who will actually represent them.”
Forcina believes the community has lacked the representation and leadership in Albany that is needed and that the Assembly is the vehicle that should be used to make a difference in the community.
Although not known politically in the area, Forcina said he has other attributes. “I not only have the experience, but the real life perspective of what it takes to raise a family, advocate for individuals and communities and create jobs,” he said.
The candidate believes the district deserves a leader who will take on “the status quo politics of divisiveness, partisanship and stagnation” and work with both parties “to ensure that our government is not only working for us, but is doing so openly, honestly and efficiently.”
Assemblywoman Ann Carrozza, who has served in Albany since 1997, announced last month that she will retire at the end of her term. The 26th District includes Whitestone, East Flushing, Bayside, Douglaston, Little Neck, Malba and Bay Terrace.