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TimesLedger Democratic Primary Endorsements in Citywide Races

In the citywide Democratic primaries that will be held Sept. 15, Queens will be well represented. In several races our borough is home to more than one excellent candidate.

Mayoral Primary: William Thompson

In the Democratic mayoral primary, we are not able to give our support to the candidate from Bayside and Whitestone, City Councilman Tony Avella. Readers of the TimesLedger Newspapers will recognize Avella as an activist whose name and photo are frequently found on our pages. We are impressed by Avella’s enthusiasm and his dedication to the people who elected him.

But he is a politician with an unfortunate tendency to shoot from the hip without carefully weighing issues. This was evident in his opposition to the opening of a state-of-the-art health spa in College Point because some of his constituents were suspicious of the Korean Americans running the spa.

TimesLedger endorses city Comptroller William Thompson. Thompson comes to the table with a wide range of valuable experience. In the past eight years he has done a credible job as the city’s financial watchdog. As a deputy borough president in Brooklyn, Thompson helped to bring together black, Jewish and Latino leaders to heal the racial divide in the aftermath of the Crown Heights riots. He was appointed Brooklyn’s representative to the city Board of Education, where he served five years as the president until 2001.

Neither Avella nor Thompson will find it easy to unseat Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is running for a third term as an independent and the Republican candidate. He continues to enjoy strong ratings from voters despite the hard economic times the city has experienced.

Public Advocate Primary: Eric Gioia

In the primary for public advocate four worthy candidates — Councilman Bill de Blasio, Mark Green, Councilman Eric Gioia and Norman Siegel — are competing for an office that most voters do not even know exists.

This office nearly disappeared under the leadership — we use the term loosely — of Betsy Gotbaum. If the city cannot find someone better than Gotbaum to represent the consumers of its municipal services, it may be better to do away with the office.

De Blasio led the high-voltage battle against the mayor’s move to extend term limits last year, which drew support in many corners of Queens.

Green, who served as public advocate from 1994-2001, used the office as a bully pulpit. Each Sunday Green gathered the city’s press to take on a new adversary. At times it appeared Green was more concerned with promoting his own agenda.

But there is more to this office than generating controversy.

As a civil rights lawyer, Siegel has fought valiantly for the rights of the city’s minorities. Although we respect his work ethic and commitment to the causes we believe in, we suspect working from inside government will not be a good fit for him.

As a young councilman, Gioia has been a strong advocate for the concerns of his middle-class constituents in western Queens. Following a blackout that devastated residents and small businesses in his district, he became a vocal critic of Con Edison, whose response to the power failure was far from adequate. He fought valiantly at that time for the people who put him in office.

He has shown compassion for the condition of the city’s homeless and has worked to make prescription drugs and milk more affordable. His tenacity and youth make him an outstanding candidate for this underused office. TimesLedger endorses Gioia for the position of public advocate in the Democratic primary.

Comptroller Primary: John Liu

Although many New Yorkers know little or nothing about the comptroller’s office, it remains one of the most important positions in city government — second only to that of the mayor.

The comptroller serves as the city’s accountant. It is his or her job to make certain city and agency budgets are balanced, assure contracts are valid and make sure pension funds are safe. The sums involved are huge. The city’s budget this year will be more than $60 billion with $83 billion in pension funds for city workers.

Democratic voters will choose from a field that includes four strong candidates. They include Brooklyn Councilman David Yassky, who has taught at Brooklyn Law School, and three Council members from Queens: David Weprin, who runs the Finance Committee; Melinda Katz, who chairs the Land Use Committee; and John Liu, chairman of the Transportation Committee, who has fought passionately for his Flushing constituents on many fronts.

Liu has demonstrated an impressive work ethic and shown great interest in monitoring the financial condition of the city. His experience overseeing the MTA’s books and trying to decipher that agency’s Byzantine accounting system qualify him to serve as a fair and objective auditor of the city’s agencies. In another plus, prior to his city service Liu worked for a major accounting firm as an actuary.

This was not an easy call. Katz and Weprin have served their constituents well and have done impressive work on the committees to which they have been assigned. But Liu’s background makes him uniquely prepared for this important office. TimesLedger endorses Liu for the office of city comptroller in the primary for the Democratic Party.

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