By Alex Robinson
Despite a deal between the mainline Democrats and the Independent Democratic Conference to reunite, former city Comptroller John Liu said his primary opponent, state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) is not to be trusted.
In February, the incumbent joined the IDC, which controls the Senate with Republicans, angering Queens Democrats and sparking Liu’s challenge.
“You can say you’re in favour of something, but if you then take actions that make it impossible for what you are supposably in favor of to see the light of day — that is outright duplicitous,” Liu said of Avella in an interview at TimesLedger Newspapers’ offices.
Liu blasted Avella for what he said was propping up a coalition that failed to pass progressive legislation such as the Dream Act and the Women’s Equality Agenda.
“You can say you’re for women’s equality until you’re blue in the face, but if you vote in favor of the Republican leadership, [who] you know is not going to let this bill come up for a vote, then that’s where we differ,” he said.
Liu was first elected to the City Council in 2001 to represent northeast Queens.
He became the first Asian American elected to citywide office in 2009 when he won the comptroller race.
Liu never really stopped campaigning after he tumbled out of the 2013 mayoral race in fourth place following a campaign finance investigation that snarled his bid and resulted in the conviction of an aide and a volunteer. The former comptroller was never accused of any personal wrongdoing.
After the race, he continued to hold a tireless public schedule attending events across the borough, fueling rumors he was considering a run for Congress. He also landed a gig teaching municipal finance at Baruch College, a job he intends to keep if elected in September.
The former comptroller entered talks with the Queens Democratic Party leadership to run against Avella and officially launched his campaign for District 11, which covers northeast Queens, at the beginning of the summer.
He has since put together a broad coalition of support from many Queens elected officials, including three of the borough’s congressional members and Borough President Melinda Katz. He has also amassed more than $500,000 in funds, according to campaign finance filings, far out-raising Avella.
Liu has rolled out a number of policy announcements over the last couple months, outlining his priorities in education, transportation and a number of other areas.
The Senate candidate, who chaired the Transportation Committee during his time on the Council, proposed an expansion of bus service in northeast Queens.
“People have too often referred to northeast Queens as a transit desert,” he said.
Liu lauded the effectiveness of express bus service and said he would work to create transfers for commuters who go from buses to the Long Island Rail Road.
“Express buses are a really good solution,” he said. “If you really want to ease the congestion into Manhattan and other parts of the city, you have to give people incentives. You can’t just penalize them.”
He said he has seen strong support, particularly in the areas he used to represent in the Council that are now part of Avella’s district, which covers Bayside, Whitestone, College Point, Bay Terrace, Douglaston, Hollis Hills and part of Flushing.
Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4566.