As the November midterm elections draw closer, state Senator Tony Avella announced plans to continue his reelection campaign despite losing the Democratic primary in September.
The senator announced on Oct. 8 that he would be running on the Independent and Women’s Equality Lines, thanks to the grassroots political group Families for Tony Avella who have been fervently backing him in his reelection.
“They and others from all political perspectives have asked me not to give up the fight but to continue to campaign for them,” said Avella in a statement. “No matter where I go in the district since the election, residents have expressed their serious concerns with the candidates that won the Democratic and Republican Primaries.”
One of the group’s organizers, Phil Wong, said that he and others in the district formed Families for Tony Avella following the September primary.
Though Wong does not live in the 11th Senatorial District, which includes neighborhoods like Whitestone, Flushing, Bayside and College Point, he was inspired by the work Avella had done where Wong lives in Elmhurst. He added that he often works with district parents in his work as an organizer.
Wong said that the grassroots campaign has received “very positive” feedback from the community in the short time that the group has existed.
“It’s gaining momentum,” Wong said. “But it’s a big district and there is a lot of work to do.”
The organizer said that the “dozens” of volunteers have been working since the group launched by participating in “old-fashioned campaigning” including making phone calls, handing out fliers and knocking on people’s doors.
In his announcement, Avella voiced his concerns about his opponent John Liu and the Republican candidate Vickie Paladino and added that others in the district shared his sentiments.
“They feel that the Republican candidate, perhaps well-intentioned, has no experience in government and no knowledge of the issues our communities face or how to deal with them,” Avella said. “Many more have expressed shock that disgraced and scandal-ridden John Liu won the Democratic primary. They feel John Liu is an embarrassment to the community and are very afraid of the negative impact on the community if he is elected. All during the campaign countless people asked me how can he run, ‘Why didn’t he go to jail for campaign finance fraud?'”
Heather Stewart, a spokesperson for Liu’s campaign responded to the Avella’s plans for reelection in a written statement.
“It’s about time that Tony Avella finally fesses up to what were his intentions all along,” Stewart said. “Not to worry — Democrats fired him on Sept. 13, and voters will fire him again on Nov. 6. Soon after, Avella will also have to answer for accepting well over $100,000 of illegal contributions through the SICC fund.”
QNS reached out to Paladino, who responded directly to Avella’s comments regarding her experience.
“As a 63-year resident of this district, a taxpayer, homeowner, mother, and small business owner, I can assure all concerned citizens that am intimately familiar with the issues our district faces and what it takes to solve them, and I welcome all to visit my campaign offices in Whitestone or reach out to me directly on social media where I’ll be more than happy to personally address their concerns,” said Paladino over email. “This community means everything to me and I want everyone to know how seriously I take this responsibility. I am personally available to anyone who would like to talk.”
In September, Avella received 47 percent of the votes, while his opponent Liu garnered 53 percent of the votes. Wong said that if voter turnout had been stronger he believes that Avella would have won the primary. The midterm elections take place on Tuesday, Nov. 6.
This story was updated on Wednesday, Oct. 10 at 3:45 p.m.