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Vallone rejects GOP backing for Avella seat

Democrat Kevin Kim will face off against Republican Dan Halloran in the Nov. 3 race to replace City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside), but one of Kim’s former opponents in the Democratic primary became the focus of the race last week.

Speculation arose last week that Democrat Paul Vallone, who came in third in the Sept. 15 primary with 22 percent of the vote, would run on the Republican line, replacing Auburndale attorney Dan Halloran after a story surfaced earlier this month about Halloran’s leadership in a pre-Christian pagan religion.

On Friday, City Hall News reported Vallone would endorse Kim, director of community affairs for U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside), in the race that afternoon.

But Vallone said he had no intention of re-entering the race and that he had not yet endorsed either candidate.

“I’ve been friends with Kevin and Dan, but I haven’t endorsed anybody yet,” he said.

City Hall News reported last week that sources within the Queens County Republican Party said the organization was seeking to replace Halloran following a Sept. 17 Queens Tribune article, which reported the candidate practiced Theodism, a pagan religion. The sources had said the GOP had been in talks with Vallone to run on the Republican line, while Halloran had told City Hall News he believed Vallone would endorse him in the race.

Vallone said Monday some borough Republicans had approached him and proposed his running on the GOP line as a replacement for Halloran. But he said he was staying out of the race.

“It’s flattering, but I’m spending time with my family now,” said Vallone, who plans to make another run for elected office in the district. “We were being sought after. But we’re not going to cross over any lines to do anything.”

But Vince Tabone, executive chairman of the Queens GOP, said the county party had “not for even a moment entertained a substitution for our candidate.” He vowed the party would stand behind Halloran’s campaign.

“Paul Vallone is a gentleman and a decent sort and many of our GOP members appreciate that the Vallone family were rationale actors during the Giuliani administration,” he said. “But I do not believe that this appreciation would have ever extended to a formal endorsement even though there is great mutual respect.”

Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria), Paul Vallone’s brother, said the Queens GOP could be looking for a replacement for Halloran, but that it would not be his brother.

“The Republican Party, as any responsible party would, should consider its legal options in the situation they are faced with,” he said. “From what I’d heard, they may have been considering Paul, which makes sense because he’s the strongest candidate out there. But it’s not going to happen.”

Tabone said Halloran grew up in an Irish Catholic household and criticized Halloran’s portrayal in the Queens Tribune article.

“People in our diverse and vibrant community will not stand for religion-baiting anymore than they would race-baiting,” said Tabone, who is also Halloran’s campaign spokesman.

Tabone said the paper’s executive vice president, Michael Nussbaum, is a consultant to Kim’s campaign.

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

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