By Alex Robinson
Former city Comptroller John Liu has flexed his fund-raising chops in his young campaign to oust state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), amassing more than $508,000 in his first campaign finance filing.
The Queens Democratic machine drafted Liu to challenge Avella, after the two-term incumbent left the mainstream party for the Independent Democratic Conference, a breakaway group of Democrats who control the Senate in a power-sharing agreement with Republicans.
Avella, who has publicly mentioned his aversion to fund-raising, collected $132,000 during the same time and received $50,000 in contributions from fellow IDC members.
He also received $10,300 from David Rich, an executive with the Greater New York Hospital Association, who had never donated to Avella in past years, but had generously given to IDC head Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx).
“The Independent Democratic Conference fully supports the re-election of IDC member Tony Avella, a true progressive Democrat who always puts the needs of his Queens constituents first, and is prepared to see him through to victory,” IDC spokeswoman Candice Giove said.
Liu received donations from individuals across the country, a number of unions and many Queens Democrats.
State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria), who heads the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee, gave $6,500 to him and U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), chairman of the Queens Democratic Party, donated $6,500 to Liu’s coffers.
After expenses, Liu’s campaign had $444,370 in cash on hand and Avella, who had less than $3,000 in his campaign account in January, had $88,682.
Klein recently nixed the IDC’s agreement with Republicans, pledging to form a new pact with Democrats.
The IDC and Democrats subsequently withdrew potential primary challengers in a number of races. The Democratic Senate leadership also rolled back its support of former state Attorney General Oliver Koppell’s race against Klein this week, but have continued to support Liu’s candidacy.
“We are interested in being cooperative with our new coalition partners and part of that was making clear where we stand in the race against Jeff Klein,” Gianaris said in an interview.
Both Liu and Avella continued to rack up endorsements last week.
Liu’s campaign announced endorsements from U.S. Reps. Grace Meng (D-Flushing), Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) and Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica), none of which came as a surprise considering the Queens Democratic Party’s anger at Avella since he left to join the IDC. The incumbent scored a nod from the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.
Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4566.