Tag Archives: 16th senate district

Six-time incumbent Stavisky claims victory over Messer in primary


| mchan@queenscourier.com

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

Messer refuses to give up fight


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

John Messer

It was a fight not easily conceded.

State Senate hopeful John Messer refused to back down after opponent Toby Ann Stavisky reported winning numbers during the primary race for the 16th District. Messer said a hard hit in the south Flushing neighborhood of Electchester — a Stavisky-favored area — caused his influence to dwindle at local polls.

Messer said he found the numbers perplexing and that he believed he was the favored candidate in nearly all precincts. The contender said he brought a large number of new voters to the polls, who may have checked their ballot box with an X instead of filling in the bubble.

The local attorney and small business owner said his lawyers will be looking into a possible recount and are going to consult with judges to see if an order can issue a second look at the votes.

“I believe going into this I wanted to inspire people and I wanted to bring people into the process and when I went around today, everyone was so excited,” said Messer. “It just doesn’t make any sense to me. 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. It doesn’t make any sense.”

Messer believes he won 75 percent of the precincts.

“We inspired so many people and brought so many people into the process, 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.”

John Messer kicks off campaign against state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo by Lev Radin

An Oakland Gardens attorney officially launched his second try at defeating a nearly 13-year State Senate incumbent, hoping a newly-redrawn majority Asian district and a one-on-one primary will give him a leg up this time around.

John Messer, 42, pointed out that since the new 16th District, which is now 53 percent Asian, no longer includes Bay Terrace — an area that voted largely for State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky in a primary race two years ago — he foresees a more level playing field. He also expects this year’s two-way battle to bode well in his favor.

“Everybody knows that when you bring more people into a race and you divide the vote, it gives an opportunity for an incumbent to win even though they don’t have a majority of the votes,” Messer said.

Stavisky won a three-way 2010 primary challenge against Messer and Isaac Sasson, a retired professor and cancer researcher, with 45 percent of the vote. Sasson is now supporting Messer, who rallied supporters at his July 22 campaign kickoff at the Flushing Mall.

“We hear the same thing over and over again,” said Messer, who has thrown in $351,000 of his own money to the campaign. “Voters of this district want change. Nothing I believed in two years ago has changed.”

Messer accused Stavisky of never hiring an Asian staffer in her dozen years as Flushing’s senator while pointing to his own two Asian campaign co-chairs, as well as his Chinese wife and three kids.

But Stavisky’s spokesperson, Josh Goodman, said the claims were false. The incumbent senator, he said, has had Asian-American staffers over the years, as well as Chinese and Korean language services available at her Flushing district office.

“Anybody in the community can always get help from Senator Stavisky regardless of her ethnic background and linguistic issues,” Goodman said. “I think it’s a little insulting of Mr. Messer to suggest she doesn’t understand a community that she serves so well.”

Stavisky — the first woman from Queens elected to the State Senate — has the backing of every Asian elected official in the city, Goodman said, as well as the Queens County Democratic Party and both U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer.

The winner of the September 13 Democratic primary will take on Republican candidate J.D. Kim.