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Queens Chronicle

Liu launches second bid against Avella

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Posted: Thursday, July 19, 2018 10:30 am

It’s official: John Liu is challenging state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) in this season’s Democratic primary race. The winner will be decided when voters cast their ballots Sept. 13.

The former city comptroller and councilman, who challenged the senator in a 2014 primary and lost by 568 votes, started gathering petition signatures with supporters last week. And they made the July 12 deadline, having gathered around 3,000 signatures — far more than the 1,000 required.

Liu joined supporters at Bell Boulevard and 73rd Avenue in Oakland Gardens last Friday to officially kick off the campaign.

“Welcome to Oakland Gardens,” the challenger said. “This is where I lived for many years, this was my old pizza delivery territory.”

The ex-comptroller said he had agreed to support John Duane, a former assemblyman who was running a primary challenge to Avella, but after he dropped out, Liu decided to jump in.

“We have seen a lot of destruction and destructive policies coming from Washington, policies that we can fight by enacting strong New York State laws,” he said.

Among those with Liu were Council Speaker Corey Johnson (D-Manhattan), Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) and activists from progressive groups including Empire State Indivisible and TrueBlueNY.

“I will be out here all summer with all of you, with my friend [Councilmen] Rory Lancman and Barry Grodenchik and Paul Vallone and Peter Koo and other friends who support our next state senator, my friend John Liu,” Johnson said.

His allies at the campaign kickoff cheered: “John Liu! John Liu! John Liu!”

He’s not the only candidate in Queens running against a former member of the Independent Democratic Conference, a band of Democratic state senators who had a power-sharing agreement with the Republicans.

The group dissolved earlier this year, but the senators who belonged to it — including Avella and state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) — have been much-maligned by progressives. On Friday, Liu called his opponent “the most treacherous of traitors.”

In statement to the Chronicle, Avella spokesman Jeff Frediani had some tough words for the ex-comptroller.

“The voters of this district have a choice to reject disgraced politician John Liu, who wants to bring his scandal-ridden style of politics to Albany,” he said in a prepared statement. “Or, they can choose Senator Avella, who will again run this race on his tremendous constituent services record and his strong voting record as a Democrat in support of women’s right to choose, paid family leave, raise the age, environmental protection, good government reform and the many important values that we as Democrats want in our elected officials.”

At the campaign kickoff, Liu criticized Mayor de Blasio’s plan to abolish the Specialized High School Admissions Exam. He also spoke in favor of the increased education funding sought by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit brought by education advocates in 2006, which argued that the state hadn’t adequately funded public schools by billions of dollars. The advocates won in 2006 and the state was ordered to pay the money, but it stopped doing so in 2008 in response to the Great Recession.

Liu said the money “has been bottled up in Albany because the Senate has refused to act.”

Unlike in the 2014 match between Liu and the senator, the Democratic Organization of Queens County is supporting the incumbent this time around.

Although he may not have the party machinery on his side, the challenger is confident.

“It’s a vastly different climate that we live in today between 2014 and now 2018,” Liu told reporters last Friday.

In addition to the Liu-Avella matchup, there’s a Republican primary match for the seat. Whitestone resident Vickie Paladino, who’s well-known for berating de Blasio last year over his going to a protest in Germany after an NYPD officer was killed, will face off with Simon Minching of Little Neck.

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