By Nathan Duke
City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) said he probably will not challenge U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside) for his seat this fall despite support from the borough’s Republican and Conservative parties, while northeast Queens leaders were divided on whether they believed former Councilman Tony Avella could defeat longtime state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose).
Halloran, who was elected in November to replace Avella as the Council member for northeast Queens, said a Facebook page urging him to run for Congress has already drawn 300 members since it went up last weekend. But he said he did not intend to face off against Ackerman this year following the contentious race last fall in which he battled Democrat Kevin Kim, who formerly worked as Ackerman’s deputy director of community affairs, for his Council seat.
“I’m flattered and grateful they think I’m that caliber of a candidate,” Halloran said. “But right now I’m worried about running the district. I just came off a cycle in a bitter election, so I’m not ready to run another race.”
One of the most high-profile races in the district would be Avella’s bid against Padavan, who was first elected to the Senate in 1972. Avella said he is strongly considering the run, but has not made an official announcement.
Halloran said he had been approached by the Republican, Libertarian and Conservative parties in Queens as well as several in Nassau County to run for Ackerman’s seat.
“I’ll sit down and talk to them, but I’m not inclined to run,” he said. “I haven’t ruled it out, but Gary Ackerman has tremendous financial and political resources. My big picture right now is the state of the city and that our district gets its fair share of money.”
Ackerman said he intended to work with Halloran to help constituents in his district.
“I have no intent of running against Dan for City Council,” he said.
Phil Ragusa, chairman of the Queens County Republican Party, said he is still screening candidates to run this fall but that no one has been chosen to oppose Ackerman.
In terms of Padavan’s race, Avella is currently the only Democratic contender being mentioned.
Padavan narrowly defeated Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) during the Nov. 4, 2008 election. Avella’s former district overlaps with that of the state senator, giving him more name recognition in the northeast Queens communities he is vying to represent.
But Halloran said he believed the election of President Barack Obama made the 2008 election close for Padavan and he did not expect Avella to unseat the senator.
“He’s got the best constituent services in terms of response time,” he said of Padavan. “Tony was a very strong councilman and a great guy and there’s no reason to doubt he’d do his hardest in the job. But I don’t think he could compete with Padavan’s long track record of success.”
Padavan has said he is currently preoccupied with the state’s budget and that this year’s political season was “a long way off.”
Avella, who was first elected to the Council in 2001 and ran in the Democratic primary last year for mayor, said the Queens County Democratic Party was in support of his bid.
“I think he’s got an excellent shot,” said Michael Reich, executive secretary of the county party. “It appears he’s pulling together factions of the Democratic Party.”
Avella and Padavan butted heads after the senator called on the Queens district attorney’s office to file charges against officers of the College Point Sports Association in 2001. Five contractors were indicted for illegally dumping debris on the ground’s ballfields.
Padavan had attempted to pin the blame for the closing of the ballfields on Avella, who was president of the association at the time the dumping occurred in 1997.
Padavan’s seat covers Bellerose, Bayside, Little Neck, Douglaston, Jamaica Estates, New Hyde Park, Floral Park, Whitestone, College Point and Hollis.
Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.