In the end, Republican Dan Halloran beat his opponent Kevin Kim with a lot less money and endorsements, but support from the voters fed up with the constant mudslinging.
That’s the consensus of Monday morning quarterbacks in the District 19 City Council race that energized the district and turned the tide against Democrats.
Halloran, 37, an attorney from Whitestone, beat Kim, a lawyer and former aide to Congressman Gary Ackerman (D-Queens and Nassau), with an unofficial 52 percent of the vote. Kim took 47 percent.
The Republican will replace Democrat Tony Avella, who did not seek re-election, but instead ran unsuccessfully for mayor in the September primary. It will be the first time in eight years that a Republican has held the seat.
“I was born and raised in the district, the fifth generation of my family, and I understand every part of it,” Halloran said Tuesday night at a victory party at Sullivan’s in Bayside.
He told the Queens Chronicle the first big problem he plans to tackle is the Department of Buildings’ actions. “I will turn the lights on that agency and find out why they can’t prevent the overdevelopment of this area,” Halloran said.
Gracious in victory, Halloran praised his opponent for “doing a great job,” although the campaign was contentious on both sides.
The 19th District, which includes College Point, part of Flushing, Bayside, Auburndale, Little Neck, Douglaston, Malba and Bay Terrace, voted Republican until Mike Abel was term-limited out of office and replaced by Avella in 2001. Abel served as councilman for 10 years.
Kim’s camp started the smear campaign by publicizing the fact that Halloran heads a pagan religion that was printed by a weekly newspaper with ties to Kim’s campaign consultants.
After the Queens Tribune piece appeared, Halloran acknowledged he belongs to a pagan group, but says religion has no place in a political campaign and that the story was printed in a biased way. In it, Halloran is described as the first atheling, or king of Normandy, a branch of the Theod faith, a pre-Christian heathen religion.
Raised a Catholic, the Republican got involved with the group after the death of his father, when a relative suggested he might find some comfort from it.
Later, Kim hinted that Halloran’s career with the NYPD was anything but stellar and earlier this week sent out fliers from Sacred Heart Church telling people not to vote for Halloran because he’s a pagan.
The Kim campaign used the church’s mailing address instead of its own, which may be a campaign violation. Following his victory, Halloran said he had spoken with the pastor, Father Thomas Brosnan, who indicated there was no malice intended and that the pastor didn’t expect a political flier to go out representing the Catholic Church.
Halloran said he would not pursue the issue.
Paul DiBenedetto, one of Halloran’s supporters, an active civic leader and a member of Community Board 11, said Tuesday night his candidate won because he ran an honest campaign. “I’ve never seen a dirtier campaign,” DiBenedetto said. “Dan played by the rules and he didn’t cheat or lie.”
The civic leader believes Halloran won because of his character, “which energized the civics’ base.”
Paul Graziano, a zoning and urban planning consultant, who worked closely with Avella to get many areas of northeast Queens downzoned, said he and others had met with Kim and were disappointed at the outcome. “He wouldn’t meet with civic groups before the election and was arrogant about knowing all the issues,” Graziano said.
Kim raised $436,848, while Halloran took in only $46,927. The Democrat’s endorsements run two full pages, including all major Queens party leaders, the five candidates he beat in September’s primary, former Gov. Mario Cuomo and numerous unions, including the Patrolmens Benevolent Association, United Federation of Teachers, Uniformed Firefighters Association and Communications Workers of America.
Halloran was endorsed by the Republican, Independence, Libertarian and Conservative parties as well as state Sen. Frank Padavan, former Gov. George Pataki, the carpenters union and the Fire Marshals Benevolent Association
Several people interviewed not connected with the Halloran campaign, said they were disgusted at the personal attacks made against him. Halloran officials think it was a factor in Kim’s defeat.
“The personal attacks were outrageous, causing a backlash by voters. The voters weren’t buying it,” said Daryl Fox, Halloran’s campaign director.
Kim, 39, most recently worked for Ackerman as deputy director of community affairs, which he said prepared him to become a councilman.
During the campaign, Halloran said Kim moved to Flushing two years ago from Manhattan, based on Kim’s 2007 voter registration form, which showed he had not voted since 2000.
Kim’s camp said he moved to Bayside after 2007 and grew up in the district. The Halloran campaign wasn’t so sure, but was unable to prove it.