By Alex Robinson
Former city Comptroller John Liu’s political aspirations took a big hit last week after he accepted defeat at the hands of state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside).
Liu conceded Tuesday morning, a week after the Democratic primary, which the incumbent won by 4.4 percent, according to unofficial city Board of Elections results.
“Public service, to me, is a calling, not a career, and this race was always about the opportunity to serve our community and fight for our Democratic values in Albany. And in that respect, the results were a success,” Liu said in a statement Tuesday morning. “While we may have fallen just short in the voting booth, our message resonated loud and clear — the people of this district want a true Democrat who will stand up for our progressive values, and we will hold our elected officials accountable by their actions, not just their words.”
Liu’s campaign said that after crunching the numbers, it became clear that the 568-vote gap between the two candidates was going to be too wide to close, even with the roughly 1,000 absentee ballots yet to be counted.
The incumbent senator, who will likely win a third term in Albany come November, won his largest leads in a part of his district, which includes Beechhurst, Whitestone and Bayside, unofficial BOE results showed.
“It was a spirited primary race,” Avella said Tuesday. “I look forward to the November election and to ultimately returning to Albany to represent my constituents in what is sure to be a pivotal legislative session.”
The Queens Democratic Party opened the door for a run by Liu, who stumbled out of the 2013 mayoral race in fourth place, when it drafted him to oust Avella, a rogue senator who had defected to the Independent Democratic Conference in February.
Liu’s challenge mobilized a coalition of support from many of the area’s elected officials and unions in the early days of his campaign, making the argument Avella had betrayed his party and “empowered Republicans,” as the IDC controlled the Senate with the GOP.
Facing potential primaries, the IDC and Democratic leadership announced a new power-sharing agreement in June between the two factions. Challenges to a number of other IDC members were called off and the Working Families Party pulled its support of Liu, but the Queens Democratic Party and the former comptroller were steadfast in their pursuit to defeat Avella.
After the agreement, Avella gained significant union support and endorsements from powerful Democrats, such as Mayor Bill de Blasio and U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Melville).
Avella also managed to squeak out the win, despite only fund-raising a fraction of what Liu did.
Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.