Last month Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) lost his seat in the Democratic primary to John Liu, the former city comptroller and 2013 mayoral contender—by just around 1,500 votes. But Avella appears unwilling to let go of the reins just yet.
Avella, in a turn of events on Oct. 8 announced he would be running in the primaries now just 11 days away, on two third parties—the Independence and Women’s Equality ballot lines. The Big Apple’s fusion voting system enables candidates to run on numerous party lines at the same time.
In an interview with The Epoch Times, Avella said he was “disappointed” with the primary results, but said he changed his mind when voters urged him to run again.
“After the primary night people reached out to me to say how they were disappointed with the results and they wanted me to continue since I was already on the ballot for the general election. So based upon how many people reached out to me, I said yes,” he said.
Weeks ago in a lengthy twitter thread declaring his renewed candidateship, Avella, who was born and raised in Queens, described how Families for Tony Avella, a grassroots group, was formed to promote his candidacy.
Avella described his re-election bid so far as “very positive.”
“We are going door to door, people are saying how they are going to vote for me in the general election. We are spending a lot of time on the campaign now.”
The senator said that based on Liu’s scandal-ridden history, he does not think Liu should be able to run in the first place. He added that many voters agree with him.
“I think its a disgrace for somebody who has violated campaign finance laws to be able to run for office,” Avella said. “And the fact that he owes over half a million dollars in fines for his mayoral campaign, in my opinion, should make him illegible to run.”
“A lot of people are very upset that he [Liu] won the primary. A lot of people are not voting for him in the general election.”
Liu has an extensive history of breaking campaign finance laws. In June, Avella’s campaign asked officials to investigate Liu after financial records revealed a political committee dubbed “No IDC NY,” spent a total of $11,693 to provide petition services on Liu’s behalf, even though they exceeded the maximum contribution by thousands of dollars.
Previously during Liu’s 2013 mayoral campaign, two of his top aides were sent to prison after they were found guilty of using straw donors to illegally funnel contributions. Liu himself was fined $26,000 last year by the Board of Elections over the scheme, and was also fined an additional $500,000 by the Environmental Control Board for poster violations.
Liu’s aides were also found to have ties to organized crime and China’s communist regime. His fundraiser, Xing Wu “Oliver” Pan, was executive vice chairman of the Fukien American Association that organizes events for visiting officials of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in Chinatown. It is also associated with the Fuk Ching gang.
In addition, his mayoral campaign had purchased print advertisements in Chinese newspapers for companies that donated to them, as a way of saying “thank you.”
This is the second time Liu has attempted to unseat Avella after he failed his 2014 bid. At the time Avella had joined a breakaway group of Democrats in Albany known as the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) who allied with Senate Republicans. The IDC formally disbanded this year after progressive Democrats vowed to unseat the group—even after the IDC pledged to end their alliance.
Liu was under federal investigation in 2013 but was not charged for fraud himself after the undercover operation was shut down prematurely following a New York Times article that had blown the lid. The special agent involved in the operation said that everything in the investigation “points to the next level.”
Liu’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment on Avella’s continued run.
Liu had worked with the hard-left and Islamic socialist Democrats in order to unseat Avella, according to Epoch Times contributor Trevor Loudon.
One mainstay of True Blue NY is the activist group Rise and Resist, which also endorsed Liu. Rise and Resist made headlines at a July 4 protest against Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) when one of its members, Congolese immigrant Patricia Okoumou, climbed the Statue of Liberty. Okoumou and fellow Rise and Resist protester Jay W. Walker have ties to Refuse Fascism, a front group for the Maoist-extremist organization known as the Revolutionary Communist Party.
Liu also has been endorsed by the Muslim Democratic Club of New York. Founded in a Midtown lounge in March 2013, Democratic Socialists of America member Linda Sarsour’s Muslim Democratic Club of New York has been more leftist than Islamic in outlook.
At the founding, which was attended by then-mayoral candidate Liu, co-founders Ali Najmi (later a prominent Bernie Sanders supporter) and Sarsour gave a PowerPoint presentation on the untapped voting strength of Muslim Democrats in the city, especially in Queens and Brooklyn, where Muslims live in comparatively high numbers.
While the ultimate goal of the club was to build a field operation powerful enough to influence elections throughout New York City, the Muslim Democratic Club of New York also focused on ending NYPD surveillance of Muslim communities, a goal that was accomplished in April this year. Sarsour’s organization additionally pushed for the inclusion of Muslim holidays on the public-school calendar, which occurred in March 2015.
In March 2013, the Observer reported that Liu was a “vociferous critic of the NYPD.”