BAYSIDE, NY — State Sen. Tony Avella won't leave his seat without losing twice. The incumbent state senator on Monday said he will continue his re-election campaign under the banner of two minor parties despite his defeat in last month's Democratic primary.
The move sets up a general election rematch between Avella and his primary opponent, former city comptroller John Liu. Avella will be on the Nov. 6 ballot on the Independence Party and Women's Equality Party lines in the northeast Queens district encompassing Bayside, Flushing and other neighborhoods.
"After listening to my fellow residents I cannot simply walk away from the battles we have fought together to keep our quality of life and maintain the character of our neighborhoods," Avella said in a statement.
Avella was one of six former members of the Independent Democratic Conference — a now-defunct breakaway faction of Democratic senators who for years allied themselves with Republicans — who lost to progressive primary challengers in September.
But Avella said many of his constituents have begged him not to give up the fight. Some are concerned the Republican candidate, Vickie Paladino, doesn't have enough experience, while others "have expressed shock that disgraced and scandal ridden John Liu won the Democratic primary," Avella said.
"They (district residents) feel John Liu is an embarrassment to the community and are very afraid of the negative impact on the community if he is elected," Avella said. "All during the campaign countless people asked me how can he run, 'Why didn't he go to jail for campaign finance fraud?'"
Liu's 2013 campaign for mayor was tarred by a straw-donor scandal that led to the conviction of two of his former associates, though Liu himself was not charged with a crime.
But his Senate campaign has marked something of a political comeback — he's scored endorsements from progressive groups and several elected officials, including City Council Speaker Corey Johnson.
Liu campaign spokeswoman Heather Stewart expressed confidence that Liu would come out on top despite Avella's perseverance. She said Avella will also have to answer for more than $100,000 in campaign money he reportedly accepted from the Senate Independence Campaign Committee, a campaign account that benefitted IDC members through an arrangement with the Independence Party that was ruled illegal in June.
"It's about time that Tony Avella finally fesses up to what were his intentions all along," Stewart said in an email. "Not to worry - Democrats fired him on September 13th, and voters will fire him again on Nov 6th."
Avella spokesman Jeff Frediani told the Queens Chronicle in August that the June court ruling didn't direct IDC members to return money they got from the Senate Independence Campaign Committee.
In a statement, Paladino welcomed Avella back into the race but said he has "no chance" at victory as an independent candidate with just weeks until Election Day.
"The fact is Queens has never elected an independent to the State Senate and I am the only candidate who can beat John Liu," Paladino said. "Accordingly, a vote for Avella is now a vote for Liu."