If you’re City Comptroller, you have a tad more power than if you’re a Democratic State Senator, but if you’re John Liu and you want to get back into politics, you don’t have a lot of available options.
Liu, who was last seen finishing in fourth place in a five-way mayoral primary last year, is planning on facing off against Queens State Sen. Tony Avella in a Democratic showdown this September.
Avella, a former City Councilman, earlier this year threw his lot in with a small group of renegade Democratic lawmakers who control the State Senate along with the Republicans. The establishment Democrats are now retaliating, targeting Avella and Jeff Klein, the leader of the five-member Independent Democratic Conference.
While Liu would seem to bring more gravitas into a primary with Avella, let’s remember that two of his former associates were convicted of illegally funneling money to his campaign account. And while Liu has been out of the game for the last five months, Avella has been very busy in his district for several years.
Although there is a substantial – and growing – Asian population that will help Liu in his primary run, a majority of the eligible voters in Avella’s northern Queens district are still white – while about 26 percent are Asian-American. Avella also brings a feisty personality into the contest; he’s a bit of a renegade, running against Bill Thompson in a Democratic mayoral primary in 2009.
The Liu-Avella primary is a sign that Senate Democrats aren’t fooling around; along with Klein and Avella, they’re also gunning for Malcolm Smith, an indicted politician who is neutral in the Democratic civil war and facing a primary from former Councilman Leroy Comrie.
Even if it’s a fight for power rather than major disagreements over policy, it’s good to see some incumbent lawmakers in actual primary battles. Ironically, Republican State Senators across the state will be carefully monitoring the results.