Avella campaigns hard against Thompson in mayoral race

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Last year, there were four prospective Democratic candidates for mayor: city Comptroller Bill Thompson, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan), U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills) and Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside). Now there are only two left: Thompson and Avella.

Presently, all polls show Thompson with a considerable lead over Avella, but they also show a huge undecided vote. Thompson seems to be ignoring Avella and concentrating on confronting Mayor Michael Bloomberg, as if he were already the official candidate of the city Democratic Party.

Avella’s attitude is contained in a recent statement: “We’re continuing to do a grassroots campaign and we are getting a very positive response.”

There are indications Avella’s support is growing. Although Thompson had the endorsements of all five Democratic Party county organizations and is far ahead of Avella in fund-raising, Avella is constantly campaigning at the local level.

He has said he has the endorsements of five Democratic Party clubs: the Three Parks Independent Democratic Club of the Upper West Side, the Brooklyn Democrats for Change from Bay Ridge, the Democratic Club of Flushing, the Michael Democratic Club of College Point and Democrats for New Politics in Bayside.

Avella expects to be getting more endorsements from local Democratic organizations, in some cases not directly affiliated with the county Democratic organizations, but they will have the ability to turn out votes on Primary Day.

Right now, the petition drive is in full swing. Avella needs 7,500 signatures from city registered Democrats to get on the ballot, which is no small task. He is confident of obtaining a significant number of signatures beyond the minimum required. If Avella survives the petition drive and gets on the Democratic primary ballot, overnight there will be considerable interest in the primary election by the media, which will be of help to Avella, especially when television debates between these two candidates come into focus.

If Avella does well in the debates against Thompson, it could have an important impact on the race.

Avella has been establishing a citywide campaign organization, with his main campaign headquarters in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. He hopes to reach the threshold of campaign contributions soon so he will be eligible for matching funds. He has people working for him in all five boroughs.

He stresses ethics in government and seems dedicated to public service. Of the 51 Council members, aside from Quinn, he is the only one who has a 100 percent attendance record at Council meetings.

Regarding issues, Avella believes he has a more comprehensive knowledge of city government than his opponent and also knows more about the workings of government operations than recent mayors did at the time they first took office.

He emphasizes reforms, especially regarding land use. He strongly opposes overdevelopment of city neighborhoods and has obtained changes in rezoning codes to maintain the character of residential neighborhoods. Avella considers one of his most important achievements as a councilman the Demolition of Neglect bill signed into law in 2005 by Bloomberg, which authorizes the city Landmarks Preservation Commission to stop destruction of important city landmarks.

Pertaining to the petition drive in progress, the question arises: Will Thompson challenge Avella’s designating petitions after these documents are filed with the city Elections Board and therefore try to eliminate him as a candidate so he will not have to face Avella in a mayoral primary election?

If that is the case, will Avella’s petitions be able to withstand the challenge? This race falls into the traditional category of an insurgent challenging the organization candidate. Avella has a strong political base in northeast Queens, having served that areas as a councilman for 7 1/2 years.

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