By Mark Hallum
With candidates dropping out, the options for voters are narrowing in the upcoming mayoral elections. The most recent is state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), who suspended his campaign May 4, citing funding troubles and a formidable supply of “dark money” from the de Blasio camp.
Avella declined to expand on the allegations against the standing mayor, according to a spokesman, who said he would prefer the “statement to speak for itself.”
“When I started this campaign five months ago, I knew that I was facing an uphill battle if I wanted to topple an incumbent mayor with deep pockets,” Avella said in a statement. “Though uphill, the battle was not impossible. If able to stay in this race the entire way, I knew that with my resume, coupled with the incumbent’s disrespect, disregard and disdain for the everyday New Yorkers, my message could resonate with New York.
“Five months later, however, I have found that staying in this race without being beholden to dark money is becoming increasingly difficult. Therefore, it is with a somber heart that I announce that as of today I am officially suspending my campaign for mayor of New York City.”
Avella announced he would challenge de Blasio for City Hall in December after gauging support from civic organizations in Queens and Brooklyn, which share similar values to those of residents in his home district, which stretches from College Point in the west to Douglaston and Little Neck in the east. He made his official announcement at a protest against the city over converting hotels into homeless shelters at the Holiday Inn in Maspeth.
“Throughout my career in government, I have prided myself on being an outsider who made it to the inside and got things done. Unfortunately, in a race like this, being an outsider doesn’t get you much. These days, it seems, elections are won with dollars, not votes,” Avella concluded.
Avella’s political allegiances have been called into question in relation to his membership in the Independent Democratic Conference, regarded as a turncoat affiliation of liberal state senators who negotiate with Republicans in the GOP-held Senate to get legislation through.
In March, protesters gathered outside Avella’s Bayside office in opposition to his membership in the IDC. Organized Rise and Resist, a gender-rights group, and Indivisible, a progressive anti-Trump movement, met with about 20 counter-protesters who defended Avella’s past actions and the IDC’s mission.
While the protesters claimed Avella and the IDC were helping Republicans to block Democratic legislation and pass their own, the counter-protesters contended that since the GOP already holds the majority, they have no need for the IDC.
In 2009, Avella made his first bid for mayor during his final year in the City Council representing the 19th District, but lost. He has served in the state Senate since 2010.
Avella’s decision to drop his bid follows that of Gristedes Foods CEO John Catsimatidis, who decided against challenging de Blasio as a Republican, claiming in a May 1 statement it would be too difficult to defeat the standing mayor.
“I have often said that I have one more race left in me,” Catsimatidis said. “But after careful consideration – I talked to my wife, my daughter, my son – we have decided that the 2017 New York’s mayor races was not the one that I am going to be in. My decision was based in part on the fact that the power of the incumbency in the city of New York is extremely hard to defeat.”
Catsimatidis, who was defeated in the GOP primary for mayor in 2013, said he would continue to be an outspoken voice in the city for the issues he is passionate about.
Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) had been considering a run for mayor, but dropped his plans in March.
Avella came into the race with a low approval rating. A Quinnipiac University poll from February landed him at 1 percent and de Blasio with a 35 percent approval rating.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall