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Queens Chronicle

Avella-Liu fundraising heats up campaign

Liu far outraises incumbent; Avella tells challenger ‘Pay off your fines’

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Posted: Thursday, July 17, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 11:18 am, Thu Jul 24, 2014.

Campaign finance reports have revved up the interest and the rhetoric in the state’s 11th Senate District, while in the 14th they brought more bad news for 14-year incumbent Malcolm Smith (D-Hollis).

Former city Comptroller John Liu, who joined the race less than two months ago, reported more than $508,000 in donations to his campaign to unseat incumbent Tony Avella (D-Bayside) in the 11th District Democratic primary in reports that were due by 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday.

Most of his larger contributors appear to be from the Asian community in and around New York City.

He is reporting more than $444,000 cash on hand.

Avella, who was first elected to the Senate four years ago, reported raising more than $132,000 since January, and having $88,682.54 left in the bank.

And Avella’s five largest contributions — all for $10,000 apiece — led to whispers from Liu supporters.

One contribution was from the Independent Democratic Conference Initiative. The other four were from IDC Senators Jeff Klein (D-Bronx); Diane Savino (D-Staten Island, Brooklyn); David Carlucci (D-Westchester, Rockland); and David Valesky (D-Madison).

The IDC has a power-sharing agreement with Senate Republicans, though Klein has cut a deal with Gov. Cuomo to caucus with Democrats next January.

Liu, who took on Avella in response to the latter joining the IDC this past spring, was jubilant in a statement issued by his campaign on Tuesday.

“I’m proud of the overwhelming grassroots support that we are receiving from the men and women in every corner of this district,” Liu said. “Our campaign continues to build momentum every day because the voters are looking for leaders who will bring change and deliver results.”

And while Liu’s statement then went on to emphasize the support he is getting from elected Democratic officials and numerous labor unions, Avella this week was touting a big result — a $705,000 state grant for Project BOOST, which will provide afterschool enrichment programming for schools in the district.

While he has come under criticism from Democrats for joining the IDC, Avella remains popular in the district, and has delivered nearly $2 million in funding since the switch.

He also suggested that Liu use his extra campaign cash to help pay off more than $527,000 in fines that he accumulated during his run for comptroller in 2009, fines that were assessed for illegal campaign posters.

“With over a half million dollars in unpaid campaign poster violations hanging over his head, every day disgraced candidate John Liu is failing to pay back New York City taxpayers for his illegal activities,” Avella said in a statement released by his campaign. “The hypocrisy is astounding, as these are the very same taxpayers who once entrusted him to protect their hard-earned dollars.”

Avella added that with Tuesday’s reported numbers, Liu “has no more deadbeat excuses left to pay back the city the money he owes ... It’s high time John Liu pays his fines before funding his own political ambitions.”

Liu’s campaign declined to comment on the matter, though he still is contesting the fines through legal channels.

In the 14th District, the embattled Smith brought up the rear in terms of total fundraising for the six-month period.

The entity filing under Malcolm A. Smith for New York listed more than $20,000 in expenses and $2,843.82 remaining in the bank. One expenditure was a transfer to an entity titled MalcolmforNY.

Malcolm for New York listed more than $20,800 in contributions and more than $12,800 on hand.

The file for Committee to Elect Malcolm Smith also was listed as active by the state, but said only that a No Activity Statement had been filed.

All four of the candidates running against Smith for the Democratic primary on Sept. 9 have had active fundraising periods.

Former Councilman Leroy Comrie, who has been endorsed by the Queens County Democratic organization, was the last of the four to announce his candidacy.

Comrie’s balance sheet lists $63,165.74 in receipts and $50,852 cash on hand.

The overwhelming majority of his individual contributions comes from in and immediately around the district.

He is being supported heavily with contributions from unions and political action committees.

Comrie also has gotten donations of $6,500 apiece from the re-election campaigns of Congressman Joe Crowley (D-Bronx, Queens), who also is the Queens County Democratic chairman; state Senator and Democratic state Sen. campaign chairman Mike Gianaris (D-Astoria); and state Assemblyman Michael Den Dekker (D-East Elmhurst).

Three Democrats who challenged Smith long before Comrie entered the race also filed active reports.

Bernadette Semple, a retired U.S. Navy officer, even sent out a last-minute fundraising email on July 11, the final day donations for this reporting period could be counted.

Friends of Bernadette Semple reported more than $84,000 in contributions and receipts, with nearly $39,000 in expenditures.

She reported more than $45,000 on hand.

Many of Semple’s expenses were for campaign consulting, printing, assistance with petitions and office-related expenditures.

She reported loaning her own campaign more than $70,000.

Attorney Clyde Vanel, who initially loaned his campaign $100,000, left a closing balance of $0, with the largest expense being to reimburse himself $82,000.

Attorney Munir Avery, who in January had more than $18,000 in the bank, reported contributions of more than $30,000 since then, and expenditures of just over $41,000.

He has $7,408.31 remaining.

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