The fight for the future of the state Senate is coming to Queens, as former City Comptroller John Liu, who is challenging incumbent Democrat Tony Avella, kicked off his state senate campaign Friday. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following report.
After a few months away from the campaign trail, former City Comptroller John Liu is ready to get back on it again. The one-time mayoral hopeful is hoping to oust state Senator Tony Avella, a fellow Democrat who is no longer playing ball with the Democratic caucus in Albany. The pair will face off in a September primary.
"I am proudly declaring my candidacy for New York State Senate," Liu said Friday at a kickoff rally in Queens.
Liu's opponent is one of five breakaway Democrats who have joined forced with Senate Republicans to control the legislative body.
"It's the Republicans who are driving the agenda in the New York State Senate," Liu said.
While Liu steered clear of attacking Avella directly, some of his supporters were not nearly as reluctant.
"I live in this district. I am raising my family here. And I was disgusted that my senator, who we worked so hard to elect, deserted his principles so he could become a committee chair," said City Councilman Mark Weprin of Queens.
Avella disputes the idea that he betrayed anyone by joining the Independent Democratic Caucus. He said he did what was in the best interest of his district, and that Democratic party bosses are behind this challenge.
"I left the Democratic Conference because although there are some good people there, it was really dysfunctional, and the strategy was, 'Well, one day we'll be in the majority, so let's just wait,'" Avella said. "But I was elected by the people of my district to do things for them now."
Efforts to strengthen women's abortion rights, create public financing for campaigns and give financial education aid to the children of illegal immigrants have not fared well with the state Senate ruling coalition.
"The people of New York State elected Democrats as the majority in the state Senate, and we should understand what that means. It means that the people of the state of New York generally agree more with Democratic values and principles," Liu said.
The candidates will begin collecting signatures to secure their spot on the ballot starting next week.