Vallone seals District 19 win

Vallone seals District 19 win
Photo by Ken Maldonado
By Phil Corso

The Democratic primary battle in northeast Queens’ 19th City Council District finally came to a conclusive end, with Flushing attorney Paul Vallone emerging as the winner.

Vallone initially declared victory on the night of the five-way primary vote last week, but former Empire State Development spokesman Austin Shafran refused to concede after only trailing by 144 votes with 99 percent of precincts reporting, based on preliminary results. The race became even closer after a recount put Vallone just 134 votes ahead of Shafran.

But final tallies showed Vallone, who was backed by the Queens Democratic Party, collected roughly 2,905 votes – 193 more votes than Shafran’s 2,712, after the city Board of Elections released unofficial final counts.

“We’re very proud of the campaign we ran to improve the quality of life for our community,” Shafran said after the final results came in Monday. “I’m honored by the support we received and will continue to be a strong voice and relentless advocate for working families across the city.”

Vallone also bested three other Democrats in the crowded primary run, including Flushing urban planning consultant Paul Graziano with 1,539 votes, former state Assemblyman John Duane with 1,005 votes and former Halloran chief-of-staff Chrissy Voskerichian with 900 votes.

“We’re excited that every vote has been counted and we can now start taking the campaign to the next step,” Vallone said. “Now, we focus on bringing Democrats together, fighting for the issues that matter and bringing leadership to District 19 that it hasn’t had before.”

That next step Vallone mentioned started when his victory was made official and will continue through November, when Vallone will go up against Republican Dennis Saffran to decide who will succeed the embattled incumbent, Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone).

A Vallone victory in November would keep his family’s name in the Council without interruption since his father, former Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr., was elected in 1974. His brother, Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria), will wrap up his final term in the Council representing western Queens in January after he was term-limited out of the seat and lost a hard-fought Democratic primary for borough president against Melinda Katz.

Paul Vallone was the first to declare a run for the Council seat back in January and more candidates continued to join the race over subsequent months. The Council campaign made headlines in early April when incumbent Halloran was arrested and indicted on charges accusing him of using corruption and bribery to get state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Hollis) into the mayoral race as a Republican.

The primary campaign included several public forums throughout the district revolving around quality-of-life issues and restoring integrity to the district left bruised in the wake of the scandal.

Vallone was also at the center of criticism in the final few weeks leading up to the primary after Jobs for New York, a political action committee with the Real Estate Board of New York, started distributing negative campaign attack ads in support of his campaign.

Several of those ads zoned in on Shafran, Graziano and Voskerichian, but not Duane.

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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