Councilmember Peter Vallone’s name will appear on a ballot next year, that much is sure.
“I cannot imagine not running,” the soon-to-be-term-limited councilmember said during a recent sit down at The Queens Courier’s offices with reporters and editors. Which race Vallone will jump into remains unclear.
Most speculation surrounding the Astoria politician regards his expected entrance into the borough president race, a candidacy he is not yet ready to declare.
“There are a couple of wide open fields out there like public advocate that don’t even have a Queens candidate in it,” Vallone said. “One of the reasons I haven’t announced is because there are a lot of opportunities out there. We’ll see soon when I announce.”
Vallone formed a new state committee at the beginning of the year that currently has more than $110,000, keeping his options open for any office that becomes available. His borough president war chest contains nearly $1.5 million.
If he were to throw his hat into the borough president ring, which already has former Assembly and Councilmember Melinda Katz and State Senator Jose Peralta, Vallone said he would continue fighting on a borough-wide scale for issues he considers important.
And what does he find to be most important? Public safety.
Vallone has branched out to areas of Queens he doesn’t currently represent on a public safety tour, speaking about why crime is up and what communities can do to stop it. An Astoria neighborhood watch program was recently resurrected by Vallone.
The chair of the council’s Public Safety Committee has been vocal about the need for the police department to continue stop-and-frisk. The controversial practice is the only way — barring federal legislation that closes loopholes — to get guns off the streets before they are used, the lawmaker said.
While he admitted stop-and-frisk is not always done properly – “there are bad cops out there,” he said – and may strain communities with a disparate number of stops, he said most of the tension is generated by “irresponsible elected officials.”
“When you have elected officials who are constantly accusing the entire police department of being racist, when you have elected officials saying that and leading rallies against police, that is going to turn community members against the police,” Vallone said, calling it “slander of the worst kind.”
The councilmember’s staunch support of stop-and-frisk often places him at odds with the more liberal-leaning Democrats on the city council and more in line with Republicans throughout the city.
“I have supporters in every party. And I have a lot of opponents in every party. The radical base of both sides doesn’t like me. The middle likes me,” said Vallone.
Having the support of the middle, the self-proclaimed conservative Democrat would not rule out running on the Republican line if he found himself blocked on the Democratic ticket of whichever office he chooses to run for. He garnered the Conservative line all three times he ran for city council, and was on the Republican line during his 2005 re-election.
“I think in Queens a Republican can have a shot.”
When Vallone decides what race he will enter, he certainly won’t be running for the job he wants most.
“If terms limits weren’t in existence, I would stay [in the city council],” Vallone said. “I wouldn’t even be looking at different offices.”