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With redistricing looming, Hevesi opts out of race

He disclosed his intention not to run after the...

By Adam Kramer and Daniel Massey

In a surprise move, state Sen. Dan Hevesi (D-Forest Hills) announced Tuesday he is calling it quits after two terms in Albany and will not seek re-election in the November elections.

He disclosed his intention not to run after the Republican-controlled Senate passed a redistricting plan April 10 that would have pitted him against Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing) in a new far-flung election district stretching from Bayside to Forest Hills to Astoria.

Hevesi, at 31 the youngest member of the Senate, said he had been thinking of stepping down and insisted that his decision had nothing to with the redistricting plan, a process that occurs every 10 years at the state and federal levels based on the latest census figures.

Queens political observers speculated that if Hevesi had decided to run against Stavisky, it could have caused a rift within the borough’s Democratic Party and hurt his father, former City Comptroller Alan Hevesi, who is seeking the state comptroller’s job.

The Staviskys represent another powerful Democratic family in Queens politics. Leonard Stavisky occupied the Flushing senate seat for many years and was succeeded by his wife Toby after his death.

The new senate district, which takes 61 percent of Hevesi’s current district, would cover parts of Astoria, Rego Park, Forest Hills, Kew Gardens Hills, Flushing, Whitestone, Bay Terrace, Jamaica Estates and Fresh Meadows. Hevesi’s current District 13 would become 56 percent Hispanic by adding parts of Jackson Heights, Elmhurst, East Elmhurst and Corona.

“I consider myself extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to serve as an elected member of the New York State Senate,” Hevesi said. “It has been a very challenging and rewarding experience.

His decision not to seek a third term was first reported early Tuesday on an Albany radio station.

“I love public service and feel passionately about a host of public policy issues,” Hevesi said in a prepared statement. “It is very likely that I will seek election to a higher office at some point in the future.”

Sources knowledgeable about borough politics said Hevesi had to step aside or he might have risked alienating support for his father. They said if he had run again, members of the Queens Democratic Party might have decided to throw their support behind the elder Hevesi’s opponent.

Another reason Hevesi might have concluded it was time to move on was that he did not want to be stuck in the senate minority, where it is extremely hard to get any Democratic-sponsored legislation passed, one source said. The Senate is controlled by the Republicans by a 36-to-25 margin.

“While I believe that I could have easily won re-election, the new lines were not a factor in my decision,” Hevesi said. “I have been considering making this move for quite some time. Even had my district lines remained completely unchanged, I would still have made the same decision.”

Hevesi said he would finish out his term, which ends Dec. 31, and would continue to help his father in his race for statewide office.

“The people of Queens appreciate Sen. Dan Hevesi’s contributions to our borough, our city and our state,” said Stavisky in a statement. “Though he is leaving the Senate, I know that Dan Hevesi will continue to be a strong voice on the critical public policy issues affecting New Yorkers.”

Back in May, Hevesi denied rumors that he was prepared to give up his post in the Senate to help his father’s bid for the mayorship. The senior Hevesi came in last in a four-way contest for the Democratic nomination for City Hall.

The younger Hevesi, who voted against the senate redistricting plan, said last week that he disagreed with the proposal because it overpopulates New York City’s districts, which contain most of the state’s minorities, and not because it put him up against another incumbent.

Most of the state senate districts have fewer than 300,000 people and are upstate, while those above that level are in New York City. The Republican-led senate plan puts an average of 16,000 fewer people in upstate districts than in city districts, which are more likely to be both minority and Democratic.

Hevesi issued a statement last week after the Senate voted to approve the plan, saying “this blatantly dilutes the voting power of every New York City resident” and calling the plan “grossly unfair to minority voters.”

The Democratic-led assembly plan, which has an average of 5,000 more voters in city than upstate districts, was approved last week by a count of 119-28.

Both plans still need to be approved by Gov. George Pataki and the U.S. Department of Justice.

Reach reporter Adam Kramer by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 157.

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