Queens Democrats are hoping to lure former city Comptroller John Liu to run against state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) in the primary as payback for his switching to the Independent Democratic Caucus in February.
Avella, always known as a maverick, jumped ship in Albany to join the caucus, which is allied with Republicans to form a majority in the Senate. He said he made the move to get more legislation passed and to get more money for his district.
But the move angered county Democrats, who have been seeking a strong opponent to beat Avella in September. Congressman Joe Crowley (Bronx, Queens), who heads the county party, has said he would love it if Liu decided to run, according to printed reports.
Liu did not return calls on the issue and Avella declined to comment.
Party leaders blame Avella for weakening their influence in Albany. Meanwhile, since joining the caucus, he has received major funding for three senior centers and to revitalize a Bayside park.
Speaking off the record, several Queens political insiders said though Liu, a former councilman from Flushing, would be a strong candidate, they are not convinced he could beat Avella.
“Tony is not a team player, but he is street smart and has made friends with his neighborhoods,” one insider said. “I don’t know if John should run. I think Congress is a better fit for him, but there are no openings.”
Another said that Liu is highly regarded, but that people like the fact that Avella is a maverick. “Joining the caucus put Tony in a powerful position, which can make him popular with constituents.”
Liu ran for mayor last year and was soundly beaten in the primary. He blames the loss on the Campaign Finance Board, which denied him crucial funding nearing the election due to criminal convictions against two of his campaign workers for illegal fundraising practices. He was never implicated in the case.