He is confident that the cash and his record as a fierce advocate for the environment and public safety puts him at the head of the pack of potential successors to Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who is planning to run for governor."The attorney general's office is one, I think, that fits my qualifications very well," the 34-year-old Gianaris said in a recent interview. "I think that it would be wise for me to pursue."That's the same thing he told himself five years ago when retired state Assemblyman Denis Butler (D-Astoria) announced the summer before the election that he would relinquish his seat in the 36th District covering Astoria and Long Island City.Gianaris, an attorney and Harvard Law School graduate, ran a stellar campaign, setting a district fund-raising record and handily defeating his opponent, Vince Tabone, with 69 percent of the vote. And during the past five years, the lifelong Astoria resident has made headlines fighting for environmental and public safety causes in western Queens like slashing emissions and boosting security at the area's half dozen power facilities."I think Mike is very politically savvy, which you need to be in Albany," said City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria). "He's also just a very smart, likable trustworthy guy."Vallone, who said he is not interested in pursuing Gianaris's seat, contended the assemblyman had accomplished more in his two terms than any of his predecessors. The first GreekAmerican elected to public office in New York City, Gianaris said the office of attorney general would give him the leverage for public good on a grander stage. The assemblyman, who plans to announce his formal candidacy later this year, is inspired by Spitzer's crusade against corruption on Wall Street. "He has, by all accounts, transformed the office into a national model," he said. "There's a lot to emulate from Eliot Spitzer." But Gianaris would focus on the environment, anti-terrorism and government reform - things he has a proven track record of fighting for in the Assembly. He lists two of his greatest accomplishments as the Energy Security Act and New York Power Authority pact to close the Charles Poletti Power Project.The security act gives state oversight of security at private energy facilities, which Gianaris said are potential terrorist targets. Before the act, he said facilities such as the Con Edison plant in Astoria lacked simple security measures like vehicle barriers and shoreline fences. "I expect that we will see some significant increases in security at some of our sites because of this," he said.Under the Poletti pact, the Power Authority agreed to shut down one of the dirtiest generating plants in New York state by 2010 and replace it with a cleaner 500-megawatt facility. The Poletti plant released 56,000 pounds of pollution in 2002, by far more than any other facility in Queens. "We are ending the tenure of the longest, the biggest polluter in New York," Gianaris said. "That's going to have a tremendous impact on New York City."And in the upcoming Assembly session Gianaris plans on pushing through legislation that combats gerrymandering by creating an independent commission to redraw district lines, taking the responsibility from the state Legislature. Another bill would give $4,000 in tax breaks to people that purchase hybrid cars.Despite a statewide campaign, he said he will remain committed to representing his district. After all, he said the best way to state his case for higher office is to continue making gains for his constituents in the Assembly. "My priority will always be to do my duties in the legislature," he said. Reach reporter Matthew Monks by e-mail at news@times
©2005 Community News Group
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