Following a contentious head-to-head battle in the 19th Council District, Democratic candidate Paul Vallone defeated his Republican opponent Dennis Saffran 57 to 43 percent in a bid to replace Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone), who was indicted on corruption charges earlier this year and did not seek re-election.
With 100 percent of the precincts reporting, Vallone’s vote count stood at 12,791; Saffran had 9,582 votes.
“They tried to take us down. They couldn’t do it. We kicked their butts today,” Vallone said as he addressed his cheering supporters Tuesday night at a reception at Vivaldi restaurant in Bayside.
Vallone, an attorney and member of a longtime Queens political family, called his win “a victory for everybody in District 19. It’s an amazing journey and it’s just begun.”
With his win, Vallone continues a family tradition at City Hall. His father, Peter Vallone Sr., served on the Council from 1974 until 2001, becoming speaker, while his brother, Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria), has been on the Council since 2002 and has been term-limited out.
On hand to join in the celebration were, in addition to Vallone’s father and brothers Peter and Perry, his wife, Anna-Marie, daughters Catena and Lea, and son Charlie who, at age 6, already seems poised to follow the family path.
Handed a microphone, Charlie declared, “We needed a Vallone in this district and that’s what we got,” earning perhaps his first political ovation.
Many of Vallone’s political allies were also in attendance, including state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Whitestone), Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Flushing) and City Comptroller John Liu.
“Tonight means integrity and dignity have been returned to the 19th District,” Stavisky said. “Together with all the elected officials, we can continue to make this part of Queens a wonderful place to live and work. Paul has brought everybody together.”
Echoing that, Kim said, “We’re restoring integrity back into the district and City Council. Paul is going to continue the tradition as a Vallone and bring a new wave of energy.”
Peter Vallone Jr., who this year unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for borough president, said of his brother’s victory, “We’re very proud. We’re going to have a Council member who understands middle-class values.”
Peter Vallone Sr. declined to comment on what his son’s win meant for the family personally, saying it “means more to the city than anything else.” He described his son as being the person who can “bring everyone together again,” recalling past years when members of both major parties governed harmoniously. “We worked together with [then-mayors] Dinkins and Giuliani,” he said. “That’s what we have to do again.”
Paul Vallone’s road to victory included a nail-biting win over fellow Democrat Austin Shafran in September’s primary. At the time, Vallone said his first order of business would be to unite the party. But the campaign was anything but uniting. His four other Democratic opponents in the primary held a press conference and blamed him for what they called false and derogatory statements made about them in fliers mailed by a real estate group that supports Vallone.
Later, one of the candidates, Paul Graziano, threw his support to Saffran, while two of the other former hopefuls refused to endorse Vallone.
In another twist, Halloran announced Tuesday that he had voted for Vallone and on Wednesday issued the following statement: “I congratulate Paul Vallone on his impressive victory in the race to represent all the people of the 19th Council District. The Vallone family’s tradition of public service continues and I am sure Paul will work diligently for us. My staff is already hard at work to ease the transition and make sure that our constituents will continue to enjoy the exemplary record of community service my office maintained over the last four years.”
Throughout the campaign, Vallone indicated his priorities are public safety, reduction of air traffic and equitable co-op and condo property tax assessments.
The district includes Auburndale, Bayside, College Point, Douglaston, Little Neck and Whitestone.
— Liz Rhoades contributed to this story