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Periscope: Harrison loses credibility in bid to support Walsh

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It appears that outgoing Democratic City Councilwoman Julia Harrison, in what can only be described as a desperate move to thwart an enemy’s political ambitions, has hitched her political wagon to a Republican who filed unacceptable signatures to get himself on the ballot.

Sources said Harrison is backing GOP candidate Ryan Walsh in the general elections slated for Nov. 6. Vying for Flushing’s city council seat will be Walsh, Martha Flores-Vazquez on the Independent line, Green Party candidate Paul Graziano and Democrat John Liu, who once compared Harrison to a hyena and earned her unrelenting wrath.

Harrison could not be reached for comment since she is in a hospital with a case of phlebitis, according to a staffer. A message left on Harrison’s answering machine was not acknowledged. John Watts, her chief of staff, did not return calls asking for comment.

“It’s more than just a rumor,” said Richard Jannaccio, a Democrat who lost out to Liu in the primary. “I spoke to some people on (Harrison’s) block and they said she was going around and having her close friends spreading the word (for Walsh)”

“This is her continuing crusade against John Liu,” Jannaccio said bitterly.

And according to Jannaccio, the councilwoman’s hatred for Liu has clearly cost her her perspective.

Graziano, too, in a conversation with Harrison a week ago sensed that the councilwoman was going to support Walsh.

“Part of her cynical and jaded analysis,” Graziano said, “was that it was much easier for voters to go from Row A (Democrat) to Row B (Republican) than to go from Row A to Row G (Green Party).

Jannaccio, who had expected Harrison to either support him (Jannaccio is a member of Harrison’s Flushing Democratic Club) or stay out of the fray during the primary, was clearly upset. In the primary Harrison threw her weight behind Ethel Chen, a Democrat and a onetime political enemy of Harrison.

Harrison had gambled that since Liu was heading to the polls under a cloud of controversy surrounding his father’s conviction on charges of bank fraud, Chen, who had won some key endorsements, would squeak by on Sept. 11, when the primary was originally scheduled.

But the destruction of the World Trade Center that Tuesday morning changed all that. It’s perhaps academic to argue whether Chen lost her political momentum when the primary was postponed, or that most voters had more on their minds than council elections, but the fact remains that she lost. And so did Harrison.

So now Harrison is gearing up for a rematch and in danger of losing what political credibility she has left.

She’s planning to support a man whose nominating petitions a State Supreme Court judge said were “permeated with fraud.” Unfortunately, due to a technicality, the judge was unable to boot Walsh from the elections.

She’s thinking of backing a man who has so little regard for those he wants to represent in the Council that he refused to attend even one of the more than a dozen political debates which were held before Sept. 11.

She should reconsider.

One of Harrison’s better traits has been her ornery, independent streak. She rarely toed the party line and because of her unbridled honesty, more than often she put both feet in her mouth.

But supporting Walsh is not a show of independence — it’s a ridiculously misguided attempt to prevent Liu from winning in November.

Yes, Liu has a lot to answer for. His campaign contributions prove that should he win he’ll spend the rest of his political career returning favors to banking and real estate interests. Still, the end does not justify the means. And Liu has never been accused of criminal or illegal conduct. By supporting Walsh, Harrison will in effect legitimize his allegedly fraudulent petitions.

Jannaccio believes Harrison has failed as a political leader.

“Julia Harrison has betrayed her Democratic club,” he said. “She led people to believe that she wasn’t going to get involved (in the primary) and then she did.”

“Now she’s endorsing Walsh whom no one has heard of,” Jannaccio said.

But the fact remains that in her waning political days Harrison still enjoys a measure of popularity. The conservative, blue-collar home owners of Flushing have always forgiven the councilwoman’s abrasive demeanor and insensitive comments. The fact that Liu is Chinese American haunts these people, some who probably hanker for the days when Asians were rarely seen and never heard.

So some of her followers out of sheer spite might cast their votes for a man who is clearly dishonest.

As Jannaccio sees it: “It’s pitiful that people follow her lead without questioning her.”

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