Casino survey tracks Vallone in lead as beep

Photo by Nathan Duke
By Joe Anuta

A new poll from earlier this month shows City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) leading the pack for borough president, though its relevancy was questioned by the councilman’s competitors.

The poll was paid for by Resorts World Casino to get the city’s pulse on gambling in the borough, but the survey also questioned 300 likely Democratic voters in Queens in late January to see who they liked for beep.

The poll found Vallone held an 11-point lead over his competitors in the race: state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), Queens Director of Community Boards Barry Grodenchik, former Councilwoman Melinda Katz and Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst). The margin of error was 5.6 percent.

Vallone would garner 26 percent of the vote, according to the poll, with Katz netting 15 percent, Comrie 13 percent, Avella 12 percent and Peralta 7 percent. Grodenchik was not included in the poll and 28 percent of voters were undecided.

“This poll confirms that Peter F. Vallone Jr. is well on his way to becoming the next Queens borough president,” campaign spokesman Austin Finan said.

But Avella questioned why a casino group would go out of its way to include questions about the Queens borough president race in a marketing survey.

“You’re obviously trying to influence the election by releasing that information. One has to question if this was a backdoor approach for the candidate who the poll favors,” he said of the survey, conducted by Global Strategies, a national political consulting and public relations firm. “I don’t consider any poll they do reputable. I consider it geared for specific political clients.”

Vallone’s camp fired back at Avella, calling his accusations baseless and asserting that the poll was done independently of their campaign.

“No rational person would think that any local elected is the mastermind behind a poll conducted by a multibillion-dollar global organization. It’s no surprise that Tony is desperately trying to discredit a poll that shows him lagging behind,” Finan said.

Peralta’s camp noted the margin of error, saying what the poll “essentially says is that back in January you had a five-way statistical dead heat.”

The poll did not rile Katz’s camp, according to spokesman George Artz.

“We are well-positioned and we have only just begun to campaign,” he said in a statement. “The poll itself is a very small sample, with a huge margin of error, put out by a gaming client. At this point, it really only demonstrates name recognition.”

Dominick Panakal is managing Grodenchik’s campaign.

“We are confident that Barry’s message of hands-on, visible leadership will make this poll irrelevant in due time,” he said.

Comrie’s camp did not respond to a request for comment.

The poll also put Vallone as the most recognized candidate, with Avella in second place followed by Katz, Peralta and Comrie.

The poll, which polled a representative sample of 700 citywide likely Democratic primary voters, including 300 in Queens, found that 51 percent of those surveyed opposed building new full-gambling casino sites in New York City. The survey also found 25 percent of Queens primary voters would be less likely to pull the lever for a borough presidential candidate if he or she supported new gambling sites.

But the Resorts World-financed survey found that two-thirds of Queens primary voters favor turning their Aqueduct racino into a full-gambling operation — a prospect the owners would welcome, according to reports in the New York Post.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at r718-260-4566.

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