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Koo dishes $241K to get Senate seat

The Queens Democratic Party has placed a highly publicized focus on unseating the two incumbent Republican state senators in the borough over the past year, but their GOP counterparts may have something up their sleeve.

Since announcing his candidacy in February, Republican Peter Koo has quietly spent nearly a quarter of a million dollars as he pushes to unseat state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D−Whitestone) in the 16th Senate District.

The Queens Republicans are hoping Koo, a popular businessman and philanthropist, can galvanize the Asian−American community that has a heavy presence in the district and upset the incumbent Democrat.

Campaign finance records show that Koo has spent $241,314.45 on his campaign thus far, including $131,274.69 since July 15 alone.

It will be an uphill climb for Koo, however. Stavisky has the backing of the powerful Queens Democratic Party and also received personal endorsements from U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D−N.Y.), state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and City Councilman John Liu (D−Flushing).

Stavisky’s campaign has been more frugal than Koo, spending just $3,490.86 since July, according to campaign finance records, leaving her with a far larger war chest in the final weeks leading up to the Nov. 4 election.

Campaign finance records show the Stavisky campaign has $188,048.76 at its disposal, far outweighing Koo who is left with just $29,953.55.

Elected in 1999 in a special election following her husband Leonard’s death, Toby Stavisky said she is campaigning on a nearly decade−long record of proven results.

Stavisky said that first and foremost, the state needs to address the economic woes that have gripped the nation.

“So much depends on whether we have enough money coming into the state,” Stavisky said. “We’ve got to pay more attention to the middle class. These are the people we’re forgetting. We can encourage job creation. Job creation to me is critical.”

Stavisky, however, faced a surprising challenge in the September Democratic primary from relative−unknown Robert Schwartz.

Stavisky won by a large margin, collecting more than 65 percent of the votes cast for a total of 4,603, according to unofficial totals from the city Elections Board. Schwartz, who rarely promoted his campaign in public, won a surprising 2,411 of the votes cast for 34 percent.

Schwartz’s campaign was funded almost entirely through $130,000 he loaned to himself, according to campaign filings, virtually all of which was spent on elaborate mass mailings attacking Stavisky’s record as the 16th Senate District representative.

The district snakes from Bayside and Whitestone through Flushing, Forest Hills and Fresh Meadows, stretching as far west as Rego Park and east into portions of Oakland Gardens.

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e−mail at Sstirling@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, ext. 138.

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