By Phil Corso
Surrounded by family, supporters and community leaders, state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) celebrated the opening of his nearby campaign headquarters, officially kicking off his re-election bid for the 11th Senate District.
The new Bayside offices were lined with campaign posters and signaled the beginning of the senator’s first attempt at re-election after he captured the seat in 2010 from former Republican Sen. Frank Padavan, who held the post for 38 years. Avella will face off against 25-year NYPD officer Joe Concannon, who was backed by the Queens GOP last month.
“I really believe we are starting to make a difference in Albany,” Avella said. “We’re trying to move in the right direction, but there is still much more work to be done.”
Avella spoke with excitement about representing new voters in his redrawn district, which covers a large piece of northeast Queens, including College Point, Whitestone, some of Flushing, Bayside, Fresh Meadows, Hollis Hills and the neighborhoods bordering Nassau County.
“It would be an honor to pick up these new spots if re-elected,” Avella said.
Community Board 11 Chairman Jerry Iannece, who is running for the 25th state Assembly seat, stood beside the senator to voice his support for his re-election campaign. He said that although he had not always agreed with Avella during his years as a senator and a city councilman, his re-election was crucial for the state.
“It is incredibly important that we send this man back to the Senate,” Iannece said. “I am proud to stand alongside him.”
Avella returned the gesture, voicing his support for Iannece’s bid for the Assembly.
Warren Schreiber, president of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance, said Avella showed strong leadership in his first term as senator. He thanked Avella for leading the charge on critical issues such as advocating for animal rights, the middle class and fighting unfair tax assessments for co-ops and condo owners in northeast Queens.
“Saying that Avella represents us gives me confidence in our government and lets me know good government can still exist,” Schreiber said. “Sen. Avella is usually on the right side of the issues. He is one of the good guys.”
After much speculation, Padavan said in April that he had decided not to relive a heated campaign against Avella for the seat, leaving the Republican opposition open. The Queens GOP announced its endorsement of Concannon nearly one month later.
“The 11th District was represented ably for many years by Sen. Padavan and the current incumbent [Avella] by every benchmark has simply failed the community,” said Phil Ragusa, Queens GOP chairman. “He has not lived up to his campaign promises and has not filled Frank’s shoes. The incumbent just doesn’t get it.”
It was also once speculated that Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) would face Avella in a primary after her district was redrawn into much of Avella’s during redistricting. Stavisky, however, decided to avoid the primary by running in the new 16th District, which closely resembles her current seat.
Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4573.