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By Alex Robinson

A few days after a Democratic opponent declared his candidacy, state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing) launched her bid for re-election last week.

The seven-term senator announced her candidacy in a Flushing mall last Friday, surrounded by a long list of Queens Democrats, community leaders and other supporters.

“I am proud to represent people who have come here from all over the world who call Queens their home,” she told reporters.

If re-elected, she promised to work toward passing the Dream Act, the Women’s Equality Act and campaign finance reform.

“We must end political slush funds, get big money out of politics, improve disclosure laws and take away pensions from elected officials who are convicted of felonies and violate the public trust,” she said. “I’m running for re-election because while we have accomplished a great deal, there is more to be done.”

Stavisky will face a primary challenge from S.J. Jung, a Flushing activist and former president of the MinKwon Center for Community Action, who announced his candidacy May 12.

It is not clear whether Stavisky’s opponent from the 2012 primary, John Messer, will run this year. He said he is currently in the process of preparing petitions, but has not decided whether he will run.

“I’m going to make the final decision with my family over Memorial Day weekend,” he said.

Stavisky won in the 2012 primary by 16.2 percent and then went on to beat Republican J.D. Kim by a wide margin in the general election that year.

The senator was first elected to represent District 16 in 1999. Her district includes parts of Flushing, Bayside, Whitestone, Rego Park and Forest Hills. More than 50 percent of its population is Asian, according to state redistricting maps.

Jung and Stavisky have declined to criticize each other and no major policy differences have become apparent between them.

Jung’s top priorities also include passing campaign finance reform and the state Dream Act. His platform includes advocating for the revitalization of the Flushing waterfront and to raise the minimum wage, which is currently $8.

Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria), who heads the Senate Democratic Conference’s campaign committee, and U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) were among the elected officials who came out to endorse Stavisky last week.

“She has always been to me, whether in my personal life or political career, a stable voice of reason,” Meng said. “She is always about long-term solutions.”

Gianaris praised Stavisky as instrumental in passing recent Senate legislation on making the Lunar New Year a school holiday and on the East Sea naming controversy between Japan and Korea.

“She brings something to the Senate that is often lacking. That’s an eduction about the issues of her district, immigrant issues especially,” Gianaris said. “There were some important bills passed in the Senate this year that would not have happened if Sen. Stavisky did not spend her time educating her colleagues.”

Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at arobinson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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