Avella drops out, leaving Vallone and Katz for Queens borough president
State senator Tony Avella announced he's dropping out to the Queens borough president race, leaving only City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. and former Councilman Melinda Katz in the running to succeed Helen Marshall, who is term-limited.
It's not immediately clear who benefits from today's surprise move by Avella.
Avella represents lots of homeowners in Bayside, Flushing and other neighborhoods in northeast Queens. He has tended to focus on issues like over-development, "McMansions," rising home assessments, and the lack of English on store signs in Flushing, putting Avella somehwhat right-of-center, and closer on the political spectrum to Vallone, a former assistant district attorney who chairs the public safety committee and staunchly defends the NYPD.
But Avella also ingratiated himself with progressive voters. He was an early critic of hydrofracking, and of horse-drawn carriages and seemingly never missed an opportunity to rail against the political establishment while he was in the City Council.
In a statement, Avella did not give a direct reason for withdrawing, other than to vaguely say, "at this time, I believe I can best serve the people of Queens by remaining a State Senator." He also said, "This was certainly not an easy decision."
Avella is the fourth major candidate to drop out of the race, a list that includes one-term assemblyman Barry Grodenchik, State Senator Jose Peralta, and Councilman Leroy Comrie.
He did not announce his support for either of the remaining candidates in his statement.
According to the latest financial records, Vallone has a little more than $1 million in his campaign war chest, while Katz has just over $740,000.
Vallone, who represents Astoria, is term-limited and cannot seek re-election to the City Council. Katz was a member of the Assembly and vacated her Council seat in 2009 for an unsuccessful bid for City Comptroller in 2009.
UDPATE: Vallone told me, "Despite our disagreements, Tony is a hard worker and we see eye to eye on a lot of issues. I look forward to working with him and his constituents."
UPDATE: Katz's campaign released a statement, which said: "For more than a decade, Tony Avella has worked around the clock to speak up for hardworking families in Queens, and fought to make their lives better. His presence in this race brought the focus to real issues facing voters around our borough—including education, affordable housing, and better healthcare for all Queens residents. I’m grateful to have engaged in that dialogue with Tony, and look forward to working with him in the future as he remains a forceful voice for more open, honest, and transparent government in Albany."