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Ackerman endorses Kim

City Council hopeful Kevin Kim picked up a key endorsement Monday as U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside) threw his support behind the Democrat in his bid to replace Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) this fall.

Kim, who lives in Bay Terrace and acts as deputy director of community affairs for Ackerman, is currently leading fund-raising efforts among the seven candidates vying for Avella’s seat, according to city campaign finance records. Kim’s opponents in the race include Democrats Jerry Iannece, Paul Vallone, Steve Behar, Tom Cooke and Debra Markell as well as Republican Dan Halloran.

Earlier this week, Ackerman announced that he would endorse Kim during a news conference at the candidate’s campaign headquarters on Northern Boulevard.

“These are extraordinary times we are living in — times fraught with hope and promise, scary times and frustrating times because so many things have not gone the way we had planned,” Ackerman said. “Very rarely have I come across a person of such intelligence, character, dedication and wisdom at such a young age. I know all the candidates and they are all good, capable people. But Kevin’s merits stand out above what we see in politics.”

Kim, whose wife gave birth to their first child last week, said he believed his candidacy had surprised his opponents.

“Our campaign has shaken up the race and I think the momentum will lead us through to the end,” he said.

But Ackerman is not the first high-profile elected official to put his weight behind a candidate in the race. Last month, Mayor Michael Bloomberg endorsed Vallone at his Flushing-based campaign office. In addition, Iannece has the support of the Queens Democratic Party, Halloran received the Queens County Republican Party’s nod, Behar was endorsed by Avella, Cooke received the backing of the 504 Democratic Club and Markell was given the International Union of Operating Engineers’s endorsement.

Campaign finance records from July showed Kim led fund-raising in the race with $233,102, while Vallone, son of former Council Speaker Peter Vallone and brother of Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria), had raised the second-highest amount with $135,526. Iannece, Community Board 11’s chairman, had raised $67,295, while Markell, a Whitestone attorney and district manager for Long Island City’s Community Board 2, had gotten $40,811.

Behar, an attorney, had raised $25,403, while Cooke, a disabled veteran who has acted as board chairman for the United Spinal Association since July 2008, raised $20,030. Halloran, an attorney, has received $9,205.

Avella, first elected in 2001, decided to run in the mayoral race this year as opposed to seeking a third Council term. District 19 covers Bayside, Little Neck, Douglaston, Whitestone, East Flushing, Auburndale, College Point and Malba.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at nduke@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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