2009-06-03 / Political Page

In Surprise Move, Queens Dems Endorse Liu As Comptroller Candidate

According to knowledgeable and reliable sources close to the Queens Democratic Party, City Councilmember David Weprin had most of the votes he needed to win the party's endorsement for city comptroller prior to the endorsement caucus on Tuesday, May 26, the day after the Memorial Day holiday.

But when the voting started, "they went along with the party leaders", sources said, and voted for Councilmember John Liu, who achieved an overwhelming victory and became the party's official standard bearer in the race.

According to one source, Liu got 47 votes, Weprin six and Councilmember Melinda Katz four.

Why the abrupt shift to Liu occurred we haven't been able to learn because none of the candidates or party leaders have responded to our requests for comment. For the past several years, Weprin has had the party's support, got the council Finance Committee chairman post twice and looked like a solid choice to get the endorsement for the comptroller's job when incumbent city Comptroller William Thompson Jr. announced he was running for mayor.

But Katz threw her hat in the ring, and not long after, Liu also announced for the post. Since that happened, he has received impressive support and endorsements from various organizations, and just as important, has attracted the most campaign cash among contenders for the job, including the fourth Democratic hopeful, Councilmember David Yassky of Brooklyn.

Liu has also been one of the leading members of the council over the past two sessions since term limits began, being a major presence as the Transportation Committee chair and the leading watchdog over the MTA's operations.

We can expect a furious primary tussle among the trio from Queens and Yassky as we go forward.

Congressmember Joseph Crowley, the Queens Democratic Party chairman was effusive in his praise for Liu following his emergence as the party's choice for the second highest elective office in the city.

"Throughout the years, I've come to witness John's relentless energy, unwavering commitment, progressive and creative leadership that has been remarkably effective in delivering results for Queens," Crowley said of the twoterm councilmember, Transportation Committee chair and a Flushing Democratic district leader.

"John is an outstanding councilmember, and I am a proud supporter of his historic candidacy," Crowley continued. "I look forward to working with him as our next comptroller."

Accepting the endorsement, the first Asian American elected to the council portrayed himself as "a product of Queens, from my humble immigrant roots that were nurtured by hardworking parents, through my own work experience to achieve the American dream".

As comptroller, Liu pledged, "My primary objective will be expanding access and opportunity to make the dream a reality for middle class families." He said he would focus on small business development—"the backbone of Queens' and our state's economy, and creating affordable housing for working men and women throughout the city".

Comment was sought from Weprin and Katz, but neither responded to our telephone calls by yesterday's deadline.

The three-way primary battle to take Queens may likely result in a threeway split of the electorate. All three have been building campaign strength in the other boroughs and have proven adept at fundraising. Liu leads with $3.1 million, Katz in next at $2.2 million and Weprin trails with $2 million.

The winner of the primary appears to have no threatening candidate in the general election; at least, none has emerged at this point.

OTHER ENDORSEMENTS: The Democrats also endorsed Thompson in the mayoral race, Councilmember Eric Gioia (Long Island City) for Public Advocate, and Helen Marshall for another term as borough president. Besides endorsing all the party's incumbent councilmembers for re-election, the party leadership also made some interesting choices for seats being vacated as their occupants have decided to seek higher office.

To replace Councilmember Tony Avella, who's running for mayor, they endorsed Bayside community activist Jerry Iannece over Paul Vallone, among others in the 19th District. To replace Liu, they chose his chief of staff, John Choe, for Flushing's 20th District.

In the 23rd District (Hollis), they picked Assemblymember Mark Weprin to succeed his brother, David, and in Long Island City's 26th District, the party's support went to local activist Deidre Feerick.

To succeed Katz in the Forest Hills/Rego Park 29th District, the leadership chose former Councilmember Karen Koslowitz, passing over former Assemblymember Michael Cohen, among others.

Many other would-be candidates are poised to start collecting nominating petitions next Tuesday, June 9. We'll report on them in future columns.

The sitting Democratic councilmembers who were endorsed by their party for re-election were: Julissa Ferreras (21st District/Corona); Peter Vallone Jr. (22nd District/Astoria); James Gennaro (24th District/Fresh Meadows); Helen Sears (25th District/Jackson Heights); Leroy Comrie (27th District/Jamaica); William White (28th District/Springfield Gardens); Elizabeth Crowley (30th District/Glendale), and James Sanders (31st District/Far Rockaway).

REPUBLICAN CHOICES: Receiving the official endorsements of the Queens GOP are Mayor Michael Bloomberg; Comptroller candidate Daniel Leio of Long Island City; Alex Zablocki for Public Advocate, and Robert Hornak of Astoria for borough president.

For councilmember positions, the Republicans chose Dan Halloran for the 19th District (Bayside); Peter Koo for the 20th District (Flushing), Tom Dooley, 22nd District (Astoria); Angelo Margalos, 26th District (Long Island City); former Councilmember Tom Ognibene, 30th District (Glendale), and incumbent Eric Ulrich, 32nd District (Ozone Park/Howard Beach).

GOOD NEWS FOR MIKE: Bloomberg hadn't appeared to be himself in recent days, beset with concerns over renewal of mayoral control of the city's schools, cursing out reporters, and the "friendly fire" tragedy in Harlem bringing out anger. Fortunately, there was good news yesterday when recent test scores showed a great number of school kids had impressively boosted their state math test scores. The icing on that cake came with a public acknowledgment from school control nemesis United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, that mayoral school control was working well, after all.

The mayor beamed as Weingarten admitted that the test improvements showed what happened "because Mayor Bloomberg said 'I'm taking responsibility'."

PLUS AN ACKERMAN ENDORSEMENT: Added to the good news that came with Weingarten's quasi-backing of mayoral control was a bona fide outright endorsement of the mayor's re-election bid by Democratic Congressmember Gary Ackerman of Bayside.

Emphasizing that Bloomberg is "the right person to continue the city's outstanding work to keep New Yorkers safe from terrorism", the veteran lawmaker declared: "The security of our city and its economic viability as the heart of our nation's economy in these perilous times has caused me to conclude that Mayor Bloomberg's leadership is essential. I enthusiastically endorse his re-election."

GOOD NEWS FOR HOME BUYERS: In a move to boost sales of new or existing homes, condos and co-ops, state Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D- Howard Beach) has proposed legislation to give a one-time $7,000 state tax credit within the first three years of real property ownership.

Addabbo said the tax credit "stimulus... results in a positive multiplier and has ripple effects throughout the economy, not just in the housing sector".

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