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Political Action: Republicans hopeful they can win back Avella’s seat

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When it comes to primary elections, there is an old adage that refers to primary candidates: “If you get your people out, you win; if you don’t, you lose.”

In the 19th City Council District in northeast Queens, candidate Kevin Kim got his people out to the polls in large numbers and won the Democratic primary by a decisive margin. He had what could be called a well-organized pulling operation. His campaign workers seemed dedicated and enthusiastic.

U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside) was a big help in getting the vote out for Kim, a member of his congressional staff. Some Democrats who strongly supported Ackerman turned out in significant numbers to support Kim.

Ackerman’s support of Kim could be compared to what happened in 1980, when state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) supported Republican Doug Prescott’s bid to defeat incumbent Democrat Vincent Nicolosi in the 26th State Assembly District in northeast Queens. The seat is now held by Assemblywoman Ann-Margaret Carrozza (D-Bayside). During that time Padavan went all-out in assisting Prescott, who won an upset victory by over 1,500 votes. Ackerman also served in the state Senate prior to being elected to Congress. He and Padavan served at the same time.

The recently concluded primary saw a concession speech given by the Democratic candidate who had been considered the front runner, Jerry Iannece, but who came in second. At his campaign headquarters on Election Night, after his supporters applauded and cheered him, Iannece praised his victorious opponent’s campaign effort and wished him the best. Iannece will continue being chairman of Community Board 11, where he has performed well during several terms. Most political observers believe we have not heard the last of Iannece in election campaigns.

Now Kim faces Republican Dan Halloran, who recently stated that if elected, his primary emphasis will be “to preserve the character and quality of life in our neighborhoods so our residents will continue to stay here.” Halloran seems anxious to debate Kim, especially regarding quality-of-life issues.

The 19th Council District election brings into focus comparisons with the 19th District election of 1991. At that time there were nine Democrats running in the Democratic primary to become their party’s nominee for an open seat. This past primary had six candidates running. The winner of the 1991 primary, Howard Weiss, was defeated in the fall general election by Republican Mike Abel, who at the time was president of the Bayside Republican Club and two years earlier had run the Queens operation of the 1989 Giuliani mayoral campaign.

Abel had first won a Republican primary before going on to defeat Weiss and capture the Council seat. Abel would serve for 10 years as councilman and win three general elections before relinquishing the seat to term limits in 2001 when Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) took over. Padavan and Abel have never been defeated in election campaigns and it is they who will be working with and advising Halloran as Ackerman is doing with Kim.

The Republicans held the seat before and they believe they have a chance with Halloran to win it back. In the 19th District, the fall campaign may be as spirited as was the primary.

Avella held his seat for eight years before giving it up to run for mayor. He lost the mayoral primary race but was able to get 21 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary with little money or organization. He has indicated he would not run for a third term as councilman because the voters had voted twice before in favor of term limits and he did not believe it was appropriate to go against their wishes.

Posted 6:28 pm, October 10, 2011
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