Stavisky defeats Dems seeking her Senate seat

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Barring any unexpected developments, Toby Stavisky will hold on to her state Senate seat for another two years after beat her two Democratic challengers, newcomer John Messer and Flushing fixture Isaac Sasson, in the primary.

With 93 percent of precincts counted in the 16th Senate District at 1 a.m.. Wednesday, she had received 45 percent of the vote, while Sasson had 35 percent and Messer had 20 percent, according to unofficial results.

The Whitestone Democrat has one Republican opponent, Robert Schwartz, but his campaign has been dormant throughout the primary season, and his campaign finance filings reveal he has done essentially no fund-raising or spending.

Stavisky’s campaign claimed victory and was celebrating at Sullivan’s in Bayside late Tuesday night.

“I’m very grateful to the voters. You never take an election for granted,” she said. “I worked hard and spent the campaign discussing the issues such as job creation, education and cleaning up Albany, and I appreciate the support the voters showed me.”

Sasson and Messer could not be reached for comment late Tuesday night.

Many´╗┐ voters across northeast Queens said they wanted to play it safe and stick with state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) for another four years.

A retired public school teacher, Stavisky is the chairwoman of the Senate Higher Education Committee and the first female senator elected from Queens.

Whitestone resident Phyllis Trovato said she came to the polls to support the incumbent Democrat.

“She’s been good to us. She’s not perfect, but she’s better than the other people we’ve got running,” she said after voting at the Le Havre Club in Whitestone. “She seems pretty straightforward. And knowledgea­ble.”

Sasson, a longtime resident of the neighborhood with a history of philanthropy and former president of the Holly Civic Association, is well-known to downtown residents, a fact that helped him win about a third of votes.

His history as a Syrian-born immigrant who grew up in Lebanon bolsters his credentials in Flushing, which is a hub for new residents.

Downtown Flushing resident John Feng, a second-generation Chinese American, said he planned to vote for Sasson as he walked into the Taiwan Center in Flushing. He said he respected Sasson and that he thought he paid more attention to immigration than Messer and Stavisky.

“I’m voting Sasson. He knows the community, he lives here and he cares about us,” he said. “Stavisky — who even knows who she is? I think we need someone new for Flushing.”

No Messer voters were willing to talk during several hours at the Taiwan Center and Le Havre Club Tuesday afternoon, but the end-of-day tallies indicated that they came out to vote for him throughout the district.

The Oakland Gardens attorney and former city Public Economic Development Corp. — now the Economic Development Corp. — employee attracted a good showing in his first run for public office by injecting hundreds of thousands of dollars of his own money into his campaign and keeping a level head during debates.

He focused much of his energy on highlighting his plans for managing the state’s finances, creating jobs and the economy.

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4538.

Updated 6:20 pm, October 10, 2011
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