By Joe Anuta
A dismal turnout in state primary elections in and around Flushing saw state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) fend off a well-financed challenger and a Korean-American candidate come one step closer to making history after emerging from a five-way, bare-knuckled battle.
Stavisky, who will serve her seventh term in Albany should she defeat Republican candidate J.D. Kim in November, cruised to victory over Oakland Gardens lawyer and businessman John Messer, who spent about $380,000 of his own money, not including whatever was spent in the 11 days leading up to the primary and any outstanding bills, according to the state Campaign Finance Board.
Stavisky won 58 percent of the vote, with only about 10 percent of registered Democrats going to the polls last Thursday, according to the longtime lawmaker.
“I am grateful for the people in the 16th District who came out to vote,” Stavisky said at a Korean senior center the day after the election. “I think it was important to talk about the issues people care about.”
Yet Stavisky and Messer also wanted to talk extensively about each other’s character faults, with much of the race being waged with verbal barbs and attacks mailed out to prospective voters in the district, which includes parts of Flushing, Forest Hills, Elmhurst, Fresh Meadows and Bayside.
Political insiders who watched the polls said turnout in the heavily Asian-American hub of downtown Flushing was extremely low compared with other, more far-flung parts of the district, which could have worked against Messer, who campaigned heavily in the Asian community.
In the Flushing state Assembly race, former Parkside consultant Ron Kim beat out his four opponents in a hotly contested Democratic primary and will now face Republican Phil Gim in the general election, according to unofficial results. Should Kim win, he would become the first Korean-American legislator in New York state.
Kim won the five-way primary with about 27 percent of the vote, but Yen Chou, who was behind by about 4 percent, is challenging the results.
As of Tuesday evening, Chou’s camp was still waiting for the board to count paper ballots and absentee ballots before officially conceding.
“There are way too many paper ballots for anyone to call this election,” said campaign manager Michael Olmeda.
Chou was one of two Chinese candidates in the Democratic primary, the other being Ethel Chen. The two waged a vicious battle of accusations in the Chinese-language press throughout the primary, and ultimately ended up with similar vote tallies: 974 for Chou and 932 for Chen. In nearly every Flushing election, much is made of two candidates from the same community running against each other and “splitting” the vote.
Kim will go on to face Gim in the November election after the GOPer beat Sunny Hahn in the Republican primary, which drew fewer than 400 voters.
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4566.