Paul Vallone claims victory in contentious District 19 race

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Paul Vallone won the District 19 primary.THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre
Paul Vallone won the District 19 primary.

Attorney Paul Vallone declared he came out on top in a contentious Democratic primary race to replace scandal-scarred Councilmember Dan Halloran.

Vallone defeated his four opponents by taking about 31 percent of the vote on September 10, according to unofficial results.

With nearly 99 percent of precincts reporting, Vallone won 2,723 votes, while runner-up candidate Austin Shafran received 2,579 votes, according to unofficial tallies.

“There’s so much that goes through your mind on a day like today,” said Vallone, 46. “You prepare all your life for this. Its times like this I want to start tearing up, but my wife said, ‘Don’t do it, don’t do it.’ But you can’t help but to be inspired.”

Shafran, who trails by about 140 votes, said he was not conceding.

“Voting rights are sacred and we will use every legal remedy that’s available to ensure that the votes of every member of our community are fairly and fully counted,” he said.

The field that included Chrissy Voskerichian, Paul Graziano and John Duane was crowded long before the district’s Republican incumbent was arrested in April on corruption charges that rocked the district and stunned the city.

Only two candidates — Dennis Saffran, the race’s sole Republican candidate, and Voskerichian, who quit her job as Halloran’s chief of staff — threw their hats in the ring after the lawmaker’s indictment.

The race grew contentious in the last few weeks of the campaign when three of the candidates were targeted in mailers paid for by Jobs for New York, a political action committee that endorsed Vallone.

Austin Finan, a spokesperson for Vallone’s campaign, said candidates, by law, have no control over outside spending. PACs can spend as much money as they want on behalf of candidates but cannot coordinate with them.

The fuming candidates still tied the attacks to Vallone, calling the hit pieces “one of the worst mudslinging campaigns” the district has ever seen.

They then each grilled Vallone publicly during a televised debate and called on him to denounce the smear campaign pieces.

Vallone, the Queens Democratic Party pick, was also slammed by his opponents in forums before that for being a registered lobbyist.

At his victory party in Bayside, he said his message about keeping a positive campaign never changed.

“It was never about being negative, and there are a lot of candidates that did that, but that’s their choice to do that,” Vallone said. “The people that came out today said, ‘Paul, we know you. You’re a man of honor, you’re a family man.’”

Halloran, one of only two Republican councilmembers in Queens, pleaded not guilty to bribing GOP officials to get Democratic State Senator Malcolm Smith on the Republican mayoral ticket.

He said in May he would not seek re-election to focus clearing his name.

Vallone will face off with Saffran in the November general election.

Additional reporting by Liam La Guerre