Two may fight Stavisky for redrawn district seat

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Loyal Queens Democrat Jeff Gottlieb is going to make a play for the state Legislature, but even though he has not decided which seat to pursue, there is talk he will run for the state Senate in a newly redrawn district against Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing).

Former Flushing City Councilwoman Julia Harrison has also been mentioned as another possible candidate to take on Stavisky for the seat in the proposed senate district that will stretch from Astoria to Forest Hills to Flushing and up to Bay Terrace.

Interest in the seat has been spurred by the surprise announcement from state Sen. Daniel Hevesi (D-Forest Hills) last week that he would not seek re-election following the realignment of his district.

“I am thinking of running for a state legislator seat,” said Gottlieb, legislative aide to City Councilman David Weprin (D-Hollis) and a longtime aide to two powerful Forest Hills Democrats, former Councilman Morton Povman and former Assemblyman Alan Hevesi. “I have a couple of options.”

He said he has not made a decision on whether he will toss his hat into the ring for the state Senate or Assembly, but after talking to his family, friends and political consultants he will make a decision.

Harrison, who was forced to step down from her council seat in November because of term limits and has also served in the Assembly, has set her sights on Stavisky’s seat.

“I’m seriously thinking about it,” said Harrison. “I feel I can make a contribution to my community and I am willing to serve.”

She said she will present her plan to the board of the Democratic Club of Flushing Saturday. And after discussing the possibilities with the members, she will make a final decision.

Harry Giannoulis, a political consultant with the Parkside Group and Stavisky’s campaign spokesman, said the senator continues to work on the issues she has focused on for the past 20 years. Her late husband, state Sen. Leonard Stavisky, held the Flushing seat from 1983 up until his death in 1999, when she won a special election for the post.

“Sen. Stavisky is very excited about her re-election campaign this year,” Giannoulis said. “Once people announce, the campaign begins.”

A longtime political insider said Harrison and Stavisky have an antagonistic relationship that goes back to the days when Leonard Stavisky held the seat. Even though the two have similar legislative views, they have butted heads over political power.

Last year Gottlieb had planned to try to succeed Povman when he had to retire due to term limits, but bowed out at the request of the Queens Democratic Party. The machine then threw its support behind Barry Grodenchik, a top aide to former Borough President Claire Shulman. Grodenchik lost the race to City Councilman Jim Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows).

Three possibilities for Gottlieb — who has worked for legislators for 27 years — are squaring off against Stavisky; challenging state Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn (D-Fresh Meadows), a 20-year incumbent; or seeking a newly redistricted assembly seat in Flushing. Former Councilman John Sabini (D-Jackson Heights) has been mentioned as a possible candidate for the Flushing assembly seat in a largely Asian district.

Political sources said Gottlieb stepped aside for Grodenchik because he was promised the party’s support for Hevesi’s state senate seat.

Two other people running for Queens offices in last year’s election were offered Hevesi’s seat amid rumors he was stepping down from state government, the observer said, but they turned it down,

When Hevesi said last week he would not seek a third term, there was speculation he had decided to bow out because his senate seat was combined with Stavisky’s seat in the new redistricting. Every 10 years the state reapportions its governmental districts based on the based on the latest census numbers.

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.

Gottlieb, who has $50,000 in the bank from his 2001 city council race, said the decision for which seat to run for “is a difficult one, but life goes on.”

He is not sure whether or not he will receive the Democratic Party’s backing if he decided to take on either Stavisky or Mayersohn, but is hoping the county machine will back him.

Bill Viscovich, an adviser for Mayersohn and her former legal counsel, said the Mayersohn camp could not understand why Gottlieb would consider running against the well-established assemblywoman. Mayersohn has been instrumental in writing laws protecting babies with AIDS and a crime victim’s right to speak in court before sentencing.

“She has close to $30,000 in the bank even though she has never had to be concerned with fund-raising,” he said. “We expect to raise and spend $200,000 on the campaign.”

City Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) said he was not surprised that people were interesting in seeking a state senate seat.

“I think the incumbent in District 16 is very strongly positioned,” he said “I am pretty darn comfortable that Sen. Stavisky would be elected no matter who runs.”

Alexander Dworkowitz contributed to this story.

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

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