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Photo by Christina Santucci
By Joe Anuta

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) has decided to throw his hat into next year’s race for Queens borough president, the lawmaker told TimesLedger Newspapers Monday.

Avella was rumored to be mulling a run for months, but made up his mind in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, he said, after witnessing the borough being passed over for recovery resources that went to Manhattan and Brooklyn instead.

“I thought we should have had a much more active borough president and much more of a coordinating effort from the office of the borough president,” Avella said. “That convinced me Queens needs a voice.”

Avella is fresh off winning re-election to his northeast Queens seat earlier this month, where he captured nearly 60,000 votes, according to records from the city Board of Elections, a number the lawmaker believes makes capturing the boroughwide spot viable.

In the 2009 Democratic primary, where current Queens Borough President Helen Marshall ran against Marc Leavitt and Robert Schwartz, she won with 56,000 votes, according to BOE documents. Nearly five times that number voted in the 2009 general election, but in heavily Democratic Queens, the primary often dictates the results of the general election.

The competition is already stacking up. Avella’s colleague, state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst), has already announced a run. Like Avella, Peralta was re-elected earlier this month. He ran unopposed, and fetched about 45,000 votes — 15,000 fewer than Avella.

Melinda Katz, former City Councilwoman and state Assemblywoman, has also announced she will run, as has City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) and Deputy Queens Borough President Barry Grodenchik. The name of City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) is also often bandied about as a possible contender, although he has not announced his intentions.

Avella is counting on support in his strongholds and name recognition around the borough to best the other Democrats in the race. He pointed out he was former Mayor Ed Koch’s Queens representative, is known to cross into the districts of his colleagues to help residents and also received more than 60,000 votes when he ran for mayor in 2009.

“I think we have a real shot, and so far the reaction has been positive,” he said.

Avella is set to meet with the U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), the head of the Queens Democratic Party, to seek an endorsement, but the lawmaker said he is in the race regardless of Crowley’s decision.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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