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Tabone’s residency, funds questioned by Braunstein

Attacks have taken the front seat in the final days of the race to replace state Assemblywoman Ann-Margaret Carrozza (D-Bayside).

Over the past two weeks, the two Bayside candidates — Democrat Ed Braunstein and Republican Vince Tabone — exchanged barbs in a succession of debates and candidates’ forums.

Braunstein, 29, a former aide to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) and member of Community Board 11, squared off against Tabone, 44, who has worked for the city and state governments and is president of the North East Queens Community Action Network, at the Mitchell-Linden Civic Association last Thursday.

Braunstein called Tabone a “Tea Party extremist,” citing Tabone’s having sought the Taxed Enough Already Party line. Tabone retorted by saying the attack was “about as fair as me calling him an Al Sharpton Democrat.” The remarks highlighted the partisan undertones of the election, as did their opinions on possible one-party rule in Albany.

“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with all Democrats in state government,” Braunstein said. “Yes, there are certain aspects of the Democratic Party that are too quick to raise spending .... But I think a Democratic Senate, Democratic Assembly and Democratic governor would work fine.”

Tabone responded that Republicans are essential to ensuring there is opposition to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s (D-Manhattan) power.

“If we don’t elect 10 or 12 Republicans — hopefully — like myself, then he’s going to continue to have a veto-proof majority,” he said.

After the dust at the Flushing civic had settled, their camps were back to deriding each other in separate interviews.

Austin Finan, campaign manager for Braunstein, reiterated Monday a slam Braunstein voiced at the forum calling into question a $3,800 donation Tabone accepted from Myers Mermel, a candidate for governor endorsed by the Queens County Republican Party, of which Tabone is executive vice chairman.

“When Vince Tabone receives a $3,800 maximum contribution from Myers Mermel, a fringe Republican candidate for governor with an outside chance of winning, and the Queens Republicans then turn around and endorse his candidacy, that speaks for itself and is pay-to-play at its worst,” he said.

Tabone defended the donation, saying he does not have a vote on the county or state committees because he is not a district leader.

“No one has called on me to return that money and why would I? He’s a private citizen,” he said. “That is a ridiculous thought. Because someone ran for office they’re excluded from participating in the public process?”

Tabone criticized Braunstein about contributions he accepted, including $25,000 from one developer funneled through limited liability companies — which both camps admitted was legal — and large donations from Guardian Life, a company under investigation by the state attorney general’s office, and Delaware North, a bidder for the scandal-plagued Aqueduct Race Track racino contract.

“Ed now has this foray into public life and the first thing you do is raise money from donors, and much of the money he raised is either from clients of his registered lobbyist uncle or groups or people under investigation,” Tabone said.

Finan said the Braunstein campaign has not broken any laws.

“Ed’s campaign has operated in accordance with the law at all times,” Finan said. “The Braunstein campaign questions how the Tabone campaign can accuse our campaign of pay-to-play when endorsements of the Queens County Reps and Vince Tabone are up for sale.”

The Braunstein camp also pointed out that Tabone has lived in Bayside´╗┐ less than a decade while Braunstein has lived there his whole life, and said that Tabone lost three elections while living in Astoria.

Tabone countered by saying he has served Bayside for all eight years since he moved to the community for its superior schools, and that his record of running for office will not sway voters who believe in his policies.

Carrozza, first elected to the Assembly in 1996, announced earlier this year that she would not run for re-election. Her district covers Bayside, Little Neck, Douglaston, College Point and Whitestone.

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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