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Avella gets aggressive as Weiner exits race

With U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner’s (D−Forest Hills) exit from the mayoral race, one Queens candidate for the city’s highest seat remains — and he is on the attack.

City Councilman Tony Avella (D−Bayside) had begun his campaign with nothing but niceties to say about his Democratic opponent, city Comptroller Bill Thompson, but following Weiner’s departure and Thompson winning the endorsement from the Queens County Democrats, he has begun to launch criticism at his rival, who has drawn much higher numbers in recent polls.

“It’s clear Bill Thompson is the political machine candidate,” Avella said in an interview last week. “He has gotten all the county endorsements. You don’t get all those endorsements without giving something up. With county endorsements come requests for favors and patronage, and that’s what’s wrong with the political system. That’s what I’m trying to change.”

The Queens County Democrats voted May 26 to back Thompson, who has racked up endorsements from the five Democratic county organizations. Mike Reich, Queens County Democrats’ executive secretary, did not return phone calls for comment on the group’s endorsement.

Thompson did not return a request for comment.

Avella has consistently fallen behind Thompson in poll numbers, and a NY1 poll at the end of May showed Avella receiving 4 percent of the vote in a hypothetical primary, compared to 28 percent for Some 34 percent of those polled said they did not know for whom they would cast their ballot

Avella and Thompson had agreed on almost every issue discussed, from mayoral control of schools to anger over the city Department of Buildings, at a mayoral forum in Little Neck in mid−May.

Weiner, who has endorsed Thompson for mayor, officially announced his decision to pull the plug on his mayoral campaign in an online New York Times op−ed piece May 26. He cited concerns about being outspent by deep−pocketed Bloomberg, a desire to stay in Washington under a Democratic president now that the Democrats are the majority party in Congress.”

The congressman elaborated on his move to leave the race at a press conference last week outside his childhood home in Park Slope. Weiner said the move to end his campaign was a difficult one.

“I enjoy campaigns, but I did not see how I could do my job in Congress and run the kind of campaign I’d need to run in order to win,” Weiner said. “I don’t see how [city Comptroller] Bill Thompson, whom I respect, or I could have come out of a hard fought primary and still be able to win against the mayor, who’s on his way to spending more money than any other municipal candidate in history.”

Bloomberg has far outspent his opponents with $18.5 million of his own money for his third bid for mayor, campaign finance records revealed. Thompson has raised a total of $5.1 million and spent $1.7 million; Avella has raised $248,270 and spent $116,664, according to campaign records.

Weiner had raised $5.1 million and spent $975,000.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e−mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 174.

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