By William Lewis
In the 11th state Senate District in northeast Queens, a battle is beginning. The incumbent, Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), is facing a challenge from Republican Joe Concannon, a retired police captain and former official in the Giuliani administration.
In the case of Avella, two years ago he won an upset election over Sen. Frank Padavan. The political events leading up to Avella’s success included his having been a city councilman for seven years before he entered a Democratic primary for mayor in 2009 against William Thompson, the former city comptroller.
Although he lost that primary, he nevertheless gained from it, considering that he established contacts all over the city, improved his campaign organization, increased his fund-raising capacity and, most importantly, increased his name recognition, especially in the area of the 11th District.
The following year, he declared his candidacy against Padavan, who had held that seat for 38 years. It would be a Democratic year in Queens, as the GOP would lose its last Senate seat at that time.
As we look at the race shaping up this year, Padavan is strongly supporting Concannon. As a former law enforcement officer, Concannon is expected to take strong positions on law-and-order issues. He has spoken about returning to safer streets.
Concannon is also stressing economic issues, including returning to job growth through tax incentives and reduced regulation. He emphasizes promoting efficiency by cutting waste and fraud in government programs. He favors promoting responsible legislation that reduces the tax burden on citizens.
Like other races at the local level, this campaign will be influenced by how well the candidates at the top of the ticket do — in this case, the campaign between President Barack Obama and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and the race for U.S. Senate between Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Republican-Conservative Wendy Long.
If either major party does well, it will strengthen its candidates at the regional and local levels for races for the U.S. House of Representatives, state Senate and state Assembly.
In the Long-Gillibrand race, a significant number of political writers are giving an advantage to Gillibrand, since she is the incumbent and has raised considerable financial resources. Long, however, is also making every effort to increase her campaign fund-raising capacity.
Long was underestimated as a candidate before the primary election. Rep. Robert Turner (R-Middle Village) was seen as the front runner, since he had won a congressional seat in a special election the year before and had the support of his constituents.
The results of the election showed that Long had strong support upstate — she carried all upstate counties — and did well in the suburbs and in some parts of the city.
Long, by winning the primary in a landslide, showed her campaigning ability. She is perceived as being charismatic and articulate. As an attorney and having worked in the federal government, she has an excellent knowledge of federal issues. She is expected to do well addressing the issues once the formal campaign begins after Labor Day. The successful primary experience she has had will be a big help to her in the general election.
According to the latest statewide political party registration totals, there are 5,649,934 Democrats enrolled. The Republican totals showed that there are 2,826,913 people enrolled in that party.
In recent years, however, an increasing number of voters have been crossing party lines when voting for candidates. One recent case occurred last year, when a considerable number of Democrats voted for Turner and helped elect him in the 9th Congressional District special election in Queens and Brooklyn.
The election process this year is emerging as one of the most important election cycles in recent years.