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Harrison, Chen team up in campaign for state seats

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Former Flushing Councilwoman Julia Harrison and unsuccessful council candidate Ethel Chen decided last week to run in tandem on the Democratic line for newly proposed state senate and assembly seats.

Harrison, who plans to run against state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone), and Chen, who is bidding for a new Flushing assembly seat against Jimmy Meng, were endorsed by the Democratic Club of Flushing at its Saturday meeting.

“The executive board unanimously supported the idea for running as a team,” Harrison said.

Harrison’s decision comes less than two weeks after state Sen. Daniel Hevesi (D-Forest Hills) opted out of the race against Stavisky. The new 16th Senate District pitted the incumbent senators against each other in an odd-shaped area that covers parts of Astoria, Rego Park, Forest Hills, Kew Gardens Hills, Flushing, Whitestone, Bay Terrace, Jamaica Estates and Fresh Meadows.

Instead, Jeff Gottlieb, legislative aide to Councilman David Weprin (D-Hollis) and longtime aide to former Forest Hills Councilman Morton Povman and former Forest Hills Assemblyman Alan Hevesi, said he was considering running against Stavisky.

Gottlieb has yet to make a decision, he said Tuesday. He also is considering running for the Assembly against Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn (D-Fresh Meadows) and in the proposed new assembly district in Jackson Heights.

Although Gov. George Pataki has certified the new district lines, they will not become official until the U.S. Justice Department approves them.

Harrison and Stavisky have had an antagonistic relationship that dates back to the early 1980s, a political insider said. Harrison beat out Stavisky for the Democratic party nomination when the two competed for the state Assembly in 1983.

Flushing’s councilman, Edward Sadowsky, then decided to call it quits, and Harrison handily defeated Stavisky when the two ran for his post in 1986.

Stavisky entered the state Senate in a special election in 1999, after then state Sen. Leonard Stavisky, Toby’s husband, died while serving in office.

The 81-year-old Harrison, who was elected to the City Council in 1986, said she was running to give voters “an alternative choice.”

“I’m not doing it out of spite or malice,” she said. “I am doing it out of a conviction that the democratic process is failing miserably and the amount of voters is dropping dramatically because people have no real choice.”

Harry Giannoulis, campaign spokesman for Stavisky and political consultant with the Parkside Group, said Stavisky “is hoping that if Ms. Harrison is in the race, she runs a positive race based on the issues, which is what the senator is intending to do.”

Harrison, who was forced out of her council seat due to term limits, backed Chen to replace her. In a close Democratic primary, Chen lost to John Liu, who ultimately won the Flushing seat.

Chen will campaign against former Flushing Chinese Business Association President Jimmy Meng for the proposed 22nd Assembly District seat. More than 53 percent of the population falling within the district is Asian, making it the only majority Asian Assembly district in Queens.

Chen, who described herself as a friend of Meng, said she was glad to see Asian-Americans becoming more involved in politics.

“This is a very good sign,” she said.

“I’m very much convinced I will win if he runs,” she added.

Meng returned the sentiment.

“I respect her very much, she’s good,” he said. “I think I’m the more qualified candidate.”

At its Saturday meeting, the Democratic Club of Flushing put forth several other candidates as well.

Loretta Z. Weiss and John Byas will run for the new 22nd Assembly district’s state committee posts. Sally Khan and James Wu will run for the district leader positions of Part A of the new district, while John Rosario and Harrison will run for the district leader positions of Part B.

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 141.

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