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By William Lewis

The Democratic primary in the 11th state Senate district in northeast Queens seems to be attracting a lot of attention in New York City with former city Comptroller John Liu challenging incumbent Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside).

It seems Queens Democratic Party chairman, U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), has been instrumental in initiating this primary against Avella for being part of the Independent Democratic Conference, which works with Republicans in the Senate.

In none of the other New York City counties has this action been taken until recently, with Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx), a member of the IDC, being challenged by former state Attorney General Oliver Koppell.

In leading this effort against Avella, it has opened an all-out battle within the Queens Democratic Party, not to mention possible political confrontation with the Working Families and Independence parties.

Apparently, the Queens Democratic organization is setting an example for other state office holders who might be considering joining the IDC.

Avella did not help his situation when he referred to Democratic Party leaders who have organized the primary against him as party bosses.

Fund-raising is, of course, an important aspect of political strength, and Liu recently raised more than half a million dollars to Avella’s $130,000.

If Liu wins the September primary, it should strengthen the hand of Crowley. It remains to be seen how it will affect Crowley and the Democratic county organization if Avella wins the primary.

Avella is a good campaigner. If he does not have the financial resources his opponent has, he is at a significant disadvantage, but Avella is well-known throughout the district.

The chances of winning, like in so many primaries, depends upon who turns out at the polls. Endorsements will also play a role in this contest.

This race will pave the way for future interparty disputes with the Democratic county organization and incumbent legislative office holders.

Within the Queens Republican Party, with the passing of county Chairman Phil Ragusa, attorney Thomas Ognibene of the insurgents has called for a court hearing regarding the future leadership of the Queens GOP.

There are those in all GOP factions who would like to see a halt to the constant fight for leadership. There is a need for negotiations between the opposing groups, but if there is further action in a new court battle, there will be little likelihood of peace returning to the Queens Republican Party.

This endless fight for leadership control of the Queens Republican Party has been going on periodically since the early 1980s when the then-Republican County chairman, Jack Muratori, resigned to devote his full time to his law practice when the courts ruled he had to give up his city councilman-at-large seat because the office was contrary to the concept of “one man, one vote.”

The late Ragusa was chairman for about seven years, and during most of that time he had to fight an insurgency against his organization. That was especially true during the past two years.

It would be best for Queens politics if peace could be obtained within the Queens GOP, although interparty battles are part of our political system. These never-ending battles can be overdone.

In all, 2014 will be an interesting political year in both the Republican and Democratic parties.

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