By Phil Corso
The field of candidates eyeing northeast Queens’ 19th City Council District seat grew larger this week as its embattled incumbent, who will not seek re-election, faces an ethics probe on allegations that he had affairs with a former intern and former deputy chief of staff.
A second Republican candidate entered the race to replace City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) this week, joining the GOP-backed Dennis Saffran, of Douglaston.
Rudy S. Giuliani, chief of staff to Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) and a cousin of the former mayor, said he would also join the frayand challenge Saffran for the Republican spot on the ballot.
The Democratic camp was already booming with now five confirmed Council hopefuls and potentially one more to come. Last week, former Halloran staffer Chrissy Voskerichian, a registered Democrat, filed to run for her former boss’ seat, but on the other side of the aisle. Kevin Kim, who Halloran had defeated back in 2009, has also been rumored to be considering a run.
Other Democrats who have thrown their names into the race include Paul Graziano, an activist and urban planning consultant; Austin Shafran, a former member of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration; Paul Vallone, an attorney who ran for the seat in 2009; and former state Assemblyman John Duane.
Halloran was the subject of news reports last week claiming he was having an affair with former district office intern Denise Batista after a fling with Deputy Chief of Staff Meaghan Mapes between 2010 and 2011.
In the wake of the reports, Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) ordered the body’s Standards and Ethics Committee to investigate Halloran’s behavior with promises of retaliation, which could include removal from office if found to be true.
A spokesman from Quinn’s office said the committee met once last Thursday and was continuing to look into the matter.
The reports of the suspected dalliances came one month after Halloran was arrested on federal charges accusing him of using bribery to help inject state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Hollis) into the mayoral race on the GOP ticket. Halloran has since been stripped of all Council committee assignments and announced he would not seek re-election so he could devote attention to his legal battles.
In another setback for Halloran, former traffic agent Daniel Chu won a $20,000 defamation suit against the city after the councilman accused him of reckless driving.
Chu and Halloran were in the news in 2010 when the councilman allegedly saw Chu speeding and talking on his cellphone while driving. Halloran said he approached the traffic agent before being slapped with his own $155 ticket for blocking a pedestrian ramp.
Chu’s defamation case was settled without the city having to admit any wrongdoing, according to his lawyer Michael Berkley, probably because of the councilman’s now bruised reputation.
Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4573.