Former City Comptroller John Liu is getting back into politics, as he plans to run for the state senate in his Queens district in a Democratic primary against Tony Avella, who recently joined the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference, which controls the state Senate with Republicans. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.
First thing Monday morning, the Democratic County organization of Queens voted unanimously to approve its slate of candidates, including a surprise. John Liu, the former city comptroller, will challenge state Senator Tony Avella, who abandoned the county organization in favor of the Independent Democratic Conference, known as the IDC.
"Unfortunately, there have been some who believe they can be elected by the Democratic Party in Queens County and then switch sides," said Rep. Joe Crowley, the chairman of the Queens Democratic Party. "We can't tolerate that as a party."
Avella is part of the five-member IDC, which broke off from the Democrats and formed a power-sharing arrangement with Republicans for control of the state Senate.
This is the first year mainline Democrats have had the opportunity to run primary challenges against IDC members since they took control. Not only is Liu running against Avella, but former City Councilman Oliver Koppell will take on Jeff Klein of the Bronx, the leader of the IDC.
The goal for the Democrats is to wrest back control of the state Senate.
"Let's be clear. We took it back in 2012. There were some who decided to betray the voters who elected them and allow the Republicans to continue in power," said state Senator Michael Gianaris of Queens. "We're going to set that straight this year."
Liu declined to comment, but Avella said he stands by his decision to conference with the IDC.
"At the end of the day, I have to do what's right by my constituents," Avella said. "I made the switch to join the Independent Democratic Conference because that was the right thing to do."
The county party also nominated former City Councilman Leroy Comrie to run a primary against Malcolm Smith, who was kicked out of the Democratic Conference last year after being charged with for bribery.
"I'm not running on his indictment. I'm running on his ability to deliver services to the city, to his district," Comrie said.
Insiders say it could be a tough race for Liu because Avella, despite where he conferences, is still pretty popular in the district, having served here previously in the City Council.
If Liu wins the primary and then the general election, he'd become the first Asian American elected to the New York State Senate.