Off to the ‘waces’


| vmimoni@queenscourier.com |

For ordinary folks, staggering through bitter winter weather and wondering whether the winds of war are blowing in faraway places, Election Day is way off their radar. But the process is already underway.

Wisdom is that, “You have to be in it to win it,” and Tuesday, March 4 was the first day of the six-week window for Congressional candidates wishing to run in the June 24 federal party primaries to collect the required 1,250 valid petition signatures.

“Well,” you query, “what’s so hard about that?” Whether you did or not, I’ll tell you. The weasel word here is “valid.”

Wannabees walk petitions into the Board of Elections every cycle and after a Wild West welter of legal objections, learn that they’ve been winnowed off the ballot, thanks to people who signed another petition, or don’t live in the district, or used the wrong color ink or paper, or symbol at the top of the page. Wise candidates will work for well over the requirement – with double sometimes barely enough.

With a population of roughly 2.3 million (depending on whether you believe the Census or your own eyes) in Queens, we’re whacked up into seven different Congressional districts with only one, NY6, (held by Grace Meng) entirely within the borough.

We have seen that well-organized and well-funded candidates can get on the ballot in a matter of days, and this may explain why there is buzz aplenty concerning our own John Liu and congressional ambitions.

With an endorsement of Grace last week, John took himself out of the race to represent Queens (only) in Congress. Tongue-waggers continue to speculate whether he will run, plausibly meaning against another democrat. He says he having fun teaching his class at Baruch, an unassailable non-denial denial.

We find that history shows incumbents are more likely to leave office for the halls of Graybar Hotel (after all appeals are exhausted) or the grave than lose to a primary challenger. Whether John’s political calculus favors a Congressional run this year is the big question. He may decide that the time is not yet ripe.

What might he do to keep in the public eye for two years, when time and demographics may build an advantage? Only he knows, so we might as well go on to another topic.

**

There’s some buzz about the GOP attempt to unseat Steve Israel (NY3). But Queens is less than 10 percent of the district, and the other 90 percent could care less what goes on here, figuring neither brand of voters on this side of the county line is likely to cross over.

**

The biggest political newsmaker in these parts has to be State Senator Tony Avella, who outraged fellow Democrats and many erstwhile supporters by throwing his lot in with Republicans when he joined the Independent Democratic Conference.

Never one to be a “team player,” the former two-term Councilmember has kept himself in the news over the years despite sparse accomplishment in office, relying instead on the grand gesture to endear himself with voters.

He voted against a raise for himself and colleagues at City Hall then voted against an inevitable property tax hike supported by both the Mayor and Speaker. After the inevitable retribution, he wore his punishment with pride, continuing to refuse parking privileges and stipends for committee service to this day.

Avella has burnished his populist image by getting in front of every press opportunity, from banning everything that has a highly-motivated, single-interest opposition group, to sounding off on every David-and-Goliath fight between homeowners and city agencies, to demanding the resignation of public officials in the hot seat.

Unnoticed by an adoring fan base however, these blasts have often been for naught, thanks to physical (and fiscal) reality or pesky legal precedents. Nevertheless, his constant presence in the news has made him a hero to many who don’t feel well-served by government.

His argument is that by joining the majority coalition, he can do more for his district. Through the fog however, one remembers that despite sounding off in the press in time for the weekly papers, being in the majority never helped him in the City Council.

Up until now, Avella’s often bombastic nature had been largely overlooked by party loyalists who used to chalk up his frequent outbursts to “Tony being Tony.” Behind the scenes however, there’s been a long-running joke that “Tony Avella has no enemies; it’s just that all of his friends hate him.”

Now on a crew of “wayward” Democrats that has included Graybar guests Hiram Monserratte and Pedro Espada Jr. (still contesting his reservations), Senator Foghorn is fair game.

Such notable officeholders as Grace Meng and John Liu have slammed the move. Grace, a loving mother known for personifying her name, called it “disappointing,” which for her is strong language indeed. How could you disappoint mom?

John shared Grace’s disappointment, echoing Democrats’ hopes to win back of the senate and suggesting that “this guy defecting” is an affront the team.

The state Primary isn’t until September so even the slow-turning wheel of Karma could make it a race if some of Avella’s outbursts come back to haunt him – particularly among groups who’ve never had “one of their own” in the State Senate and see a chance to make history.

We wonder how many horses will head for the gate in this race.