Two challengers vie for Stavisky’s seat

Three candidates (l.-r.) J.D. Kim, John Messer and state Sen. Toby Stavisky have emerged for the State Senate seat currently held by Stavisky.
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The race for the Flushing state Senate seat is taking shape as hopefuls gather petitions, collect endorsements and knock on doors.

Two challengers have emerged so far for the district currently represented by Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone).

The longtime lawmaker’s home was actually drawn into a different district during the decennial redistricting process earlier this year, but she decided to run in the district she currently represents anyway rather than face a primary with Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) in a seat that covers large swathes of eastern Queens. If elected, she has said she will deal with any residency requirements.

Stavisky, who is running with the support of the Queens Democratic Party, was recently endorsed by the Working Families and Independence parties, along with several members of the Democratic Party including U.S. Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), city Comptroller John Liu and state Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing).

“Working families form the backbone of New York’s economy, and I am proud to have their support,” said Stavisky said in a statement. “I will not back down in the fight to raise the minimum wage so that Queens families have all the opportunities they deserve.”

The face of Oakland Gardens lawyer John Messer has also been popping up on campaign posters throughout the district, often in many languages.

Messer has collected about 2,000 signatures, about double what is required, and has been knocking on doors throughout the area.

“It is much different than it was two years ago,” he said, referring to a previous race where he took on Stavisky. “The only thing that is not promising is that nothing has changed: The economy is bad ... people aren’t doing well and they are frustrated.”

Should both of them make it on the ballot, they will face off in a Sept. 13 primary election.

Messer said his previous attempt to unseat Stavisky, while unsuccessful, served as in introduction to the community he hopes to capitalize on this time around.

J.D. Kim received the nod of the Republican Party, but told GOPers and reporters that he would be running the campaign on his own terms.

Kim, a Flushing lawyer who has also worked on political campaigns in the past, sent out a curious open letter encouraging Stavisky to work with the Korean community and conversely for the Korean community to invite her to events.

“If Stavisky stayed away from the Korean community because they might not vote for her, it will be half a year before the next election,” he said in a subsequent interview, meaning the Korean community could be without the support of an Albany lawmaker for six months. “Koreans were hit hard by the economy and other issues, and they need their state senator.”

Kim said that after he released the letter, Stavisky or her aides began appearing at Korean events, and the senator even hired a Korean staff member.

“I guess on one level, it was a success,” he said.

But Stavisky’s camp countered that endorsements by prominent Asian leaders shows her commitment to helping a diverse range of constituents.

All state candidates have mid-July to accrue either 1,000 signatures for Democrats or 816 signatures for Republicans.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Posted 7:25 pm, June 20, 2012
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