Six-time incumbent Stavisky claims victory over Messer in primary


| mchan@queenscourier.com |

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan
THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Incumbent State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky will fight to keep her seat in the general election after claiming victory in the highly contentious District 16 primary race last week.

“I think we sent a positive message that there are issues that are important to us as Democrats,” Stavisky said during her victory party at the Sheraton Hotel in Flushing. “The people I really want to thank are the voters out there. You’re the ones to whom I report, to whom I’m accountable, and I will be forever grateful to the people of the 16th Senate District.”

Stavisky beat out her rival, attorney John Messer from Oakland Gardens, by winning 58 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results as of 1 a.m. on September 13 when 100 percent of precincts were reporting.

The six-time incumbent garnered 4,940 votes while her opponent took in 3,575, unofficial results showed.

But it was not a fight easily conceded.

Messer, at his own primary party in Woodside, refused to back down, believing he was the favored candidate in at least 75 percent of precincts. He said poll numbers were perplexing.

“It just doesn’t make any sense to me,” Messer said. “We went to certain poll sites where certain poll site workers would come out and say, ‘By the way, everyone who came in here today was asking for you’ and then we get the numbers and they’re like 50/50.”

The local attorney and small business owner said a hard hit in the south Flushing neighborhood of Electchester — a Stavisky-favored area — caused his influence to dwindle at local polls, but he said his lawyers will be looking into a possible recount, consulting with judges to see if an order can issue a second look at the votes.

“We inspired so many people and brought so many people into the process,” Messer said. “I don’t want the people who are behind us and who really want a change to get disappointed. We’re going to still work together to bring out change and bring the communities together.”

The two candidates battled through a heated primary race waged principally on negative campaign attacks. Stavisky said antagonistic literature against her was even being distributed at the 11th hour outside of a poll site in Jackson Heights.

At the pair’s first debate together, Stavisky made a stance that she would not be bullied. She told The Courier, while poll sites were still open, that she’s happy with the campaign she’s conducted.

“I talked about the issues that were important to the voters: education, job creation, services for older Americans, health care. This is what people care about,” she said. “I tried to discuss those issues.”

Stavisky is the first woman from Queens elected to the State Senate. She will face off with Republican J.D. Kim in the November 6 general election.

The newly-redrawn district emcompasses parts of Flushing, Fresh Meadows, Bayside, Oakland Gardens, Rego Park, Elmhurt, Forest Hills and Jackson Heights.

“Let us remember the principles of the Democratic Party, and let’s go on to a big, big victory for everybody in November and the Democratic State Senate,” she said.

— Additional reporting by Alexa Altman