Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone), who was arrested last month on accusations that he took part in a scheme to bribe Republican officials in order to get state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Hollis) onto the mayoral ballot as a Republican, announced Wednesday that he will not run for a second term.
Halloran, who was first elected in 2009, was arrested April 2, along with Smith and Vince Tabone, former vice chairman of the Queens Republican Party, for an alleged plot to solicit bribes to acquire a Wilson Pakula for Smith, a Democrat, in order for him to get a place on the GOP primary ballot for mayor. He was indicted late last month.
Halloran said he would forego re-election in order to work on clearing his name, but he is not resigning from office.
“It has been the greatest honor to serve this beautiful district, in which I am proud to have lived my entire life,” he said in a prepared statement. “Regrettably, I must now focus my attention on clearing my name and restoring my reputation, while I continue to discharge my sworn duties as a member of the New York City Council. After much thought, I have concluded that it is impossible for me to properly do these things and take on the enormous demands of a political campaign, so I will not pursue another term in the Council.”
After his election, Halloran was seen as a rising star in the Queens Republican Party. During his term, he distanced himself from the ongoing factional war within the party between the borough’s GOP leader, Phil Ragusa, and former Councilman Tom Ognibene. Halloran was the GOP’s candidate for Congress in the 6th Congressional District in 2012, but he lost to now-Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) by a wide margin.
The 19th Council District race was seen as one of the most competitive in the city even before Halloran’s arrest last month.
Four Democrats are seeking the seat: Austin Shafran, fomer vice president of public affairs for the Empire State Development Corporation, former Assemblyman John Duane, Paul Vallone, brother of Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) and an unsuccessful candidate for the same seat in 2009, and urban planner and local activist Paul Graziano.
The Democratic candidates responded to Halloran’s decision Wednesday.
“Councilman Halloran’s decision to not seek re-election is the right one for the people of our district,” Shafran said in a statement. “They deserve a full-time Councilman who is focused on working for the people of Queens, not his own legal defense. It’s time we put this stunning lack of integrity behind us and rebuild the public’s trust through effective, honest and dedicated service.”
“The residents of Northeast Queens deserve representation they can be proud of and a principled Council Member who is accountable to the will of the people,” Vallone said in a statement. “Now, more than ever, is the time for integrity and trust — principles which the Vallone family have embodied for over three generations and which I will restore to the 19th City Council District.”
“As far as I’m concerned, Councilman Halloran’s decision to not seek re-election is an appropriate end to an inappropriate career in politics,” Graziano said. “Unfortunately, many elected officials break promises and the public trust with their constituents; Councilman Halloran’s bad behavior goes much, much deeper and has affected not only the ability of his Council office to function in responding to the district’s needs, but also the other actions that he has taken during his tenure in office that have frankly been hostile to our neighborhoods.”
Duane called for Halloran to step down.
“I think that this is the right decision for those of us who live in the district. It’s probably the right decision for Councilman Halloran personally. It’s good because a sad chapter has come to a close. Now we can focus on restoring trust and integrity to the City Council,” he said. “I think it would be better for those of us who live in the district if he were to step down.”
Some Republicans are said to be looking at Rudy Giuliani, chief of staff to Queens’ only other GOP officeholder, Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park), as a potential replacement candidate. Giuliani is a cousin of former mayor Rudolph Giuliani. He would be joined in the Republican primary by former candidate Dennis Saffran, who lost the same district to Halloran’s predecessor, state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) by about 400 votes in 2001. Saffran has the support of the Queens GOP.