Comrie gets competition as Avella joins beep fray

TimesLedger Newspapers
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The field for Queens borough president is growing larger after state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) decided to throw his hat into the race this week, but at least one of his competitors is not sweating the extra competition.

Avella had been rumored to be mulling a run for months, but told TimesLedger Newspapers Monday that he made up his mind in the wake of Superstorm Sandy 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, when he received 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 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, Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst), has 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. But the senator said Avella’s entry into the fray would not have any impact on his plans to run.

Melinda Katz, a former city councilwoman and state assemblywoman, has also announced she will run, as has Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) and Deputy Borough President Barry Grodenchik. The name of Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) is also often bandied about as a possible contender, although he has not disclosed 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 U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), head of the Queens Democratic Party, to seek an endorsement, but the lawmaker said he is in the race regardless of Crowley’s decision.

Crowley is already to scheduled to be making stops at the kickoff parties of Peralta and Katz.

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

Updated 5:27 pm, July 9, 2018
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