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Candidates line up for Northeast Queens City Council seats

The extension of term limits may has changed the political landscape when it comes to the 2009 city elections, but it has not deterred dozens of potential candidates from pursuing their campaigns for Queens’ 14 City Council seats.

More than three dozen Queens residents are actively raising funds for campaigns for Council seats across the borough, according to bi-annual filing reports released by the city Campaign Finance Board last week.

But although all 14 Queens Council seats will be up for election this year, the political scene is far different than it was at this time last year. The approval of a third term for the city’s elected officials and a handful of special elections have turned what was a straightforward election into a chess match for potential candidates.

In northeast Queens, Councilmen John Liu (D-Flushing), Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and David Weprin (D-Hollis) have each announced campaigns for citywide office, leaving their seats open for the taking.

The race for the 19th Dsitrict seat currently held by Avella is shaping up as one of the most competitive in the borough, with three candidates — Paul Vallone, Debra Markell and Jerry Ianecce — having already each raised more than $35,000.

Altogether, five candidates have been actively raising funds for Avella’s seat, led by Vallone, brother of current Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria), who has raised $94,578, according to campaign filings. Campaign filings also show Community Board 11 member Iannece has raised $59,680, Markell has raised $35,445 and Steven Behar has raised $12,950. Thomas Cooke is also registered as a candidate for Avella’s 19th District seat, but has yet to raise any money.

Chinese Community Organizer Yen Chou leads all candidates for Liu’s seat with $67,490, Constantine Kavadas with $17,220 and District Leader James Wu, who is listed as a candidate but has not registered any fund-raising activity.

The race for David Weprin’s seat could remain in the family after his brother, state Assemblyman Mark Weprin (D-Little Neck), announced his intention to campaign for the post. But Mark Weprin could face a tough challenge from the well-funded campaign of Community Board 13 member Swaranjit Singh, who has raised $102,171 in a bid for the seat.

Longtime community activist Bob Friedrich is also running for Weprin’s seat, and has raised $41,043 through January, the CFB said.

The Council seat currently held by James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) will also be available, but the incumbent’s status come November is in flux as he is currently locked in a court battle with state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose), whom he trails by a narrow margin of votes after challenging him in November’s election. Nonetheless, Martha Taylor and Dilip Nath are operating active campaigns for the seat, according to filings with the CFB.

Campaign filings show Taylor has raised $31,983 thus far, vastly outpacing Nath, who has raised just $4,449.

For more information on campaign finance disclosure reports, visit www.nyccfb.info.

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at sstirling@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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