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Queens leaders emerge as 2008 election stars

Candidates seeking office in the November 2009 elections were required to submit their campaign finance activity for the last six months Jan. 15. The reports showed that eight of Queens' 14 City Council members - all but one of whom will be term-limited out of office in 2009 - are raising funds alongside a handful of the borough's state and federal officials for a run at a citywide office.The Campaign Finance Board filings through the start of 2008 show that Queens' politicians are no slouches, with five of the top 10 fund-raising totals citywide coming from the borough. U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner's (D-Forest Hills) second bid for mayor tops out the borough's list, with records indicating the congressman has raised more than $3.6 million toward a bid for the city's top spot. Weiner and City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) are the only two candidates who have declared they plan to run for mayor. Weiner's total dwarfs Avella's, however, with the councilman having raised just $180,940 toward his campaign through the start of 2008.It is widely anticipated that current City Comptroller William Thompson will join Avella and Weiner in the mayoral race and has the largest war chest to do so. Thompson has raised more than $4.2 million for an as of now undeclared attempt at a higher office. The race to replace Thompson is shaping up to be the most competitive at this point, particularly among Queens politicians. City Councilman David Weprin (D-Hollis) and City Councilwoman Melinda Katz (D-Forest Hills) have both filed paperwork to vie for Thompson's position, but already have competition in Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion and Brooklyn Councilmen David Yassky (D-Brooklyn) and Simcha Felder (D-Brooklyn). Katz leads all declared candidates in the comptroller's race, having raised more than $1.8 million, financial records show, while Weprin is not far behind with about $1.57 million. City Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) has also been rumored to be eying Thompson's seat and would be the frontrunner in terms of funds as of Jan. 15, with more than $2.2 million in his coffers for a currently undeclared office.Councilman Eric Gioia (D-Sunnyside) is widely expected to jump into the race for public advocate for which only New York City Civil Liberties Union President Norman Siegel has declared his candidacy, the third time he has done so. If Gioia does run, he has a large headstart over Siegel. Financial records show that Gioia has raised more than $1.6 million toward a bid for higher office, compared with Siegel's total of just over $80,000.State Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer (D-Rockaway Beach), meanwhile, has quietly filed paperwork for Queens Borough President Helen Marshall's seat, which will be vacant when she is term-limited out of office in 2009. Pheffer has raised $234,826 toward a bid for that office. It is anticipated that Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) will join Pheffer in the race, and thus far has outpaced the assemblywoman in fund-raising, having raised more than $688,000 for his campaign so far. Much like Weiner, Pheffer does not have a lot to lose in the race, however, as both politicians would retain their current positions were they to lose their respective city election bids.The next campaign finance filling deadline is July 15. Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at Sstilring@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext.138.

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