The hotly contested five-way race to become the Democratic nominee for the District 19 City Council seat came to a nail-biting conclusion Tuesday night, with attorney Paul Vallone narrowly edging his closest rival, Austin Shafran, 31.1 to 29.5 percent, with 99 percent of the votes counted.
Shafran, a first-time candidate, has spent most of his career working for the Democratic party. He said Wednesday morning that the election “was way too close to call” and with such a small margin, “we will continue to make sure all votes are counted.”
Trailing were urban planner Paul Graziano with 18 percent, former state Assembly member John Duane with 11 percent, and civic leader Chrissy Voskerichian with 10 percent.
Vallone will next face Republican Dennis Saffran, an attorney, in the general election on Nov. 5, as both try to fill the seat vacated by Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone), who is facing corruption charges and is not seeking re-election.
“We did it, everybody,” Vallone told the crowd of supporters that gathered at the Vivaldi restaurant in Bayside, shortly after 10:30 p.m., when he was unofficially declared the winner.
The victory, he said, “takes everybody in this room. This is how we do it, as a family.”
He went on to thank his own family — his wife Anna-Marie and their three children, Catena, Lea and Charlie, as well as the political allies who were on hand, including state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Whitestone), Congresswoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing), and Assemblymen Ron Kim (D-Flushing) and Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside).
“We’re going to take back our Council seat,” he told the crowd. “I need you all, all the way to November. We’re going to continue to unify this district.”
Vallone’s first order of business, he said moments after his victory speech, is “uniting the party. We have to win the general election.”
Earlier in the evening Kim said Vallone is “a good fit for the Bayside community.”
Meng explained her support by saying, “One thing we noticed was he reached out to people from all different backgrounds. He talked about common, unifying things,” among which, she said, were “good schools, less obstacles for small businesses, and a better quality of life.”
Stavisky termed this an “important election. We must come together as Democrats. I think Paul will be able to unite the community.”
At times during the campaign the candidates were anything but united, with the other four attacking Vallone for failing to condemn a series of negative mailings that they said made false allegations about them and were paid for by real estate interests.
Vallone is part of a Queens political dynasty, the son of former City Council Speaker Peter Vallone and brother of Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria), who Tuesday night lost his own bid to become the Democratic nominee for Queens borough president.
Throughout the campaign, Vallone has stated that his priorities include public safety, reduction of air traffic, conformity to the low-density character of the district by new developments and equitable property tax assessments for co-ops and condos.
The district includes Auburndale, Bayside, College Point, Douglaston, Little Neck and Whitestone.