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Bloomberg backs Vallone for Avella seat

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Mayor Michael Bloomberg threw his weight behind City Council contender Paul Vallone last week to replace Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside), angering several of Vallone’s opponents in the race and the Queens County Republican Party.

The mayor stopped by Vallone’s campaign headquarters at 25-59 Francis Lewis Blvd. in Flushing Friday to endorse the Democrat, who is a Flushing attorney as well as the brother of Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) and the son of former Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr.

“He has a strong record of community service and I know he’ll stand for pragmatic, common sense government like his brother and father have done for years,” the mayor said. “He’ll work to make the safest big city in America even safer.”

Vallone’s opponents in the race include Democrats Jerry Iannece, Steve Behar, Debra Markell, Tom Cooke and Kevin Kim as well as Republican Dan Halloran. Avella opted not to run for a third Council term and has instead jumped into the mayoral race.

Several of Vallone’s fellow contenders in the race and the Queens County Republican Party blasted the mayor’s decision to back Vallone.

“I think that endorsement makes sense, since Bloomberg for his entire term has sided with developers and Paul Vallone is a registered lobbyist for the developers that this community has been fighting for years,” Behar said.

Iannece said he believed the mayor supported Vallone because the Council contender’s father was in favor of dropping term limits and his brother had been among the Council members who voted last year to overturn them.

The Queens GOP was also upset the mayor, an independent who ran on the Republican line in 2005, crossed party lines. GOP County Chairman Phil Ragusa said some party leaders had been led to believe Bloomberg would endorse Halloran.

“It’s a slap in the face again — the same old stuff,” Ragusa said.

Behar also criticized Vallone for having voted in Astoria up until the last few years.

“It gets to the point that Paul Vallone is the classic carpetbagg­er,” Behar said. “He has done absolutely nothing in this community to warrant being a city councilman. He’s been the head of the Kiwanis Club in Astoria and an active member of a Democratic club in Astoria. He’s got a great résumé to run for City Council, but in Astoria.”

But Vallone, who grew up in Astoria and manages his family’s law firm there, said he voted in Astoria between 1999 and 2003 and has voted in Flushing ever since. His daughter had been born with health problems that required surgeries every year and he had contracted sarcoidosis, an inflammatory disease that affects multiple organs in the body, before he and his family moved to northeast Queens.

“I’ve been truthful about where I came from since day one,” he said. “My daughter was sick and I was sick. So, of course, I was with my family in Astoria and voted there.”

But Avella, who has endorsed Behar in the race, said he believed concerns about where Vallone had voted were “legitimate.”

“I think it’s up to the voters to decide on how that weighs in their decision-making process,” he said. “For me, it’s an issue.”

District 19 includes Bayside, Oakland Gardens, Douglaston, Little Neck, Auburndale, Whitestone, East Flushing, College Point and Malba.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at nduke@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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