Frei-Pearson out of Astoria assembly race

What was expected to be a hotly-contested, three-way Assembly primary is at least down to two and could be down to one by September.

Jeremiah Frei-Pearson, who was looking to secure the Democratic spot in the race for Assembly District 36, abruptly decided to end his campaign on Thursday night, July 15, just hours after his campaign sent out an email to supporters with the subject line “numbers to celebrate – this Saturday,” in regards to his petition filing.

Frei-Pearson, who had raised more than $150,000 and filed more than 3,500 signatures – seven times the required number – attributed his decision to “dynamics of the race changing” in the past week, and his departure leaves Queens Democratic Party (QDP) choice Aravella Simotas as the clear frontrunner for the seat that will be vacated by Assemblymember Michael Gianaris.

A civil rights attorney and community activist, Frei-Pearson spoke about the difficulty in beating Simotas, who he said would make “a good Assemblymember,” in a two-way race. In addition to the backing of the QDP, Simotas has received the endorsements of the Working Families Party and many powerful unions.

“That path was there in a three-way race, but once it became likely that it would be a two-race, it was apparent that to win I would have to run a negative campaign,” said Frei-Pearson, who said that was something he did not want to do.

Up until a few weeks ago, it appeared that Frei-Pearson and Simotas would be running in a three-way battle against Queens attorney John Ciafone. However, a New York Daily News story that talked about Ciafone having three residences – the only one in the assembly district being an apartment over his mother’s house.

Ciafone contends that he changed his voter registration to the Astoria apartment – where all of his important mail still goes – in time to allow him to run in the primary.

“I know they’re going to challenge me on it,” said Ciafone, who filed a little less than 3,000 signatures with the Board of Elections for the Democratic primary. “I have seen similar cases and the courts have allowed the person to use that as their primary residence.”

For Frei-Pearson, he spent most of last weekend calling supporters and volunteers to thank them and inform them of his decision to withdraw from the primary.

“I’m very interested in public service,” Frei-Pearson said. “I don’t know what form that will take, but I certainly wouldn’t rule out a run for office again.”

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