By Alex Robinson
Despite the fact the Associated Press called state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) the victor of his bitter primary battle with John Liu Tuesday night, the former comptroller isn’t giving up.
The AP declared the incumbent the winner by a margin of just 4.6 percent a few minutes before midnight, with about 95 percent of precincts reporting.
“It’s too close to call,” Liu told supporters at Vivaldi Ristorante & Ballroom in Bay Terrace Tuesday night. “It’s a very close election. I know each and every one of you worked so hard to get us to this point.”
Liu’s campaign maintained there were still about 1,000 absentee ballots and the official count only had the two candidates separated by around 600 votes.
“Though the numerical results are still unclear and we’re going to have to take at least a few days, if not a week or so to get the final results, our campaign has succeeded already,” Liu said. “In fact, it succeeded a number of weeks ago, when we were successful in getting some so-called Democrats to actually promise that they’re actually going to be Democrats.”
Avella gave a victory speech around 10:30 p.m. before he was officially named winner by any media outlets, saying his campaign’s numbers showed he had won the election.
“We took a candidate who raised four times as much money as I did, had the support of party machines, and tonight with your support, we did it,” Avella told a large group of supporters at CJ Sullivans in Bayside Tuesday night.
Upon walking into the bar, where his campaign party was being held, the senator was greeted with a standing ovation and applause from a crowd that then began chanting his name repeatedly as they congratulated him on his victory.
The two candidates have been engaged in one of the most hotly contested races in the state since it could have implications for the balance of power in the state Senate.
Avella triggered a primary challenge from Liu and the Queens Democratic Party after he defected to the Independent Democratic Conference, a breakaway group, which until recently controlled the state Senate with the GOP.
The IDC’s leadership recently reached a deal with mainline Democrats to form a new power-sharing agreement between the two factions in the fall. This resulted in Democrats calling off every primary challenge to IDC senators except former state Attorney General Oliver Kopell’s challenge to IDC head Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx) and Liu’s challenge to Avella.
Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.