Liu stays in race after IDC deal

By Alex Robinson

Despite a deal reached between state Democratic leadership and a group of five rogue state senators to form a new power sharing agreement in the upper chamber, former city Comptroller John Liu has vowed to continue his bid to unseat Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside).

The two-term senator recently joined the Independent Democratic Conference, a breakaway group that controls the Senate with Republicans, in a move that Liu and the Queens Democratic Party, who are backing the former mayoral candidate, have heavily criticized in his campaign.

Liu had blasted the coalition between the IDC and the GOP, saying it stalled progressive initiatives such as the Dream Act, the Women’s Equality Act and campaign finance in the state Legislature.

But last week in an interview at TimesLedger Newspapers’ offices, Liu said the rift between the rogue Democrats and their mainline colleagues was never a central theme in his campaign.

“The thrust of this campaign, which I said from the get-go, is this is an opportunity for me to serve,” he said. “I’m not doing this because anybody asked me, encouraged me or pressured me. It’s because I’ve been in public service for the last 12 years and I love it.”

Following an announcement last week that the two factions had reached a reconciliation agreement, at least one potential Democratic candidate who was gathering petitions for a primary challenge against an IDC senator has dropped their candidacy.

Democratic candidate Stephanie Hausner recently announced she would abandon her attempt to oust IDC Sen. David Carlucci (D-Rockland County) once the deal was reached.

More challengers were expected to withdraw their candidacy, but Liu insisted the IDC deal has changed nothing for his campaign.

“That’s not me. I don’t back down from a campaign,” he said in the interview.

Former state Attorney General Oliver Koppell has also said he will continue waging his primary battle against IDC head Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx).

When asked what major differences he had with the incumbent, Liu said he is more adept at working with his colleagues.

“The fact of the matter is, when you’re a state senator, you’re not a mini-mayor of your Senate district,” he said. “You’re one of several dozen legislators that you need to work with to achieve your primary purposes. Your primary objectives are to pass legislation that is good for the community you represent. You can’t do that on your own.”

Liu also said he would be better suited to work with his legislative colleagues to get more funding for the district.

“So while he may have been successful these last couple months after joining the IDC, the reality is that that’s a short-term thing,” Liu said of Avella’s increase in funding for the district since this year’s budget was passed. “It just happened these last few months. How do you explain these last few years? Can the community or this district really expect the same to occur one year from now? I don’t think so.”

Avella has yet to officially kick off his campaign for the September primary, but said his petitioning process is underway and he has started fund-raising.

“I don’t spend a lot of time fund-raising,” he said in an interview. “We will come in with over $100,000 this filing,”

The senator said he was not sure how the deal between the IDC and the mainline Democrats would affect the race.

“I’m a Democrat. He’s a Democrat. I’m ready for a primary and I intend to win,” he said.

Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at arobinson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

More from Around New York