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Avella plans to run for Padavan seat

Former City Councilman Tony Avella said he expects to officially announce his bid to challenge longtime state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) for his Albany seat this fall.

Avella said he will probably jump into the race by the end of the month and plans to focus on the same issues he championed on the Council, such as fighting overdevelopment and ethics reform, along the campaign trail.

“The one thing I found surprising on the Council is how little power the city has and how much of the legislation I introduced was dependent on Albany,” he said. “I think I have the reputation for being a reformer. If there’s any place crying out for reform, it’s Albany. I want to make government more responsible and ethical.”

Avella, who was first elected to the Council in 2001, was defeated in the Democratic primary for mayor last fall by former city Comptroller William Thompson, who then lost to Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The Democrat said he would first decide whether to run for the Senate before considering any future bids for the city’s top office.

Padavan, first elected to the Senate in 1972, narrowly defeated Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) during the Nov. 4, 2008, election.

But Avella’s former district overlaps with that of the Republican senator, giving him more name recognition in the northeast Queens communities he is vying to represent.

Padavan said he would run this fall’s campaign based on his record.

“Right now, my preoccupation is with my district and the problems we’re facing in Albany,” he said. “We’re facing tough times. I’m not giving much thought to people’s candidacy and the political season, which is a long way off.”

The state senator and the former councilman butted heads after Padavan called on the Queens district attorney’s office to file charges against officers of the College Point Sports Association in 2001 after five contractors were indicted for illegally dumping debris on the group’s ballfields.

Padavan had attempted to pin the blame for the closing of the ballfields on Avella, who was president of the sports association at the time the dumping occurred in 1997. Relations have been notably cool between the two.

Avella said he does not believe Councilman Dan Halloran’s (R-Whitestone) victory in November over Democrat Kevin Kim will work against him in his challenge to Padavan.

“All politics is local,” he said. “The dynamics are different. I was the first Democrat to represent that Council district and I think that says something.”

He said he is surprised the Queens County Democratic Party is being supportive of his bid, considering his past reputation as an outsider.

“If it happens, and I believe it will, I think there will be a united effort,” he said of his decision to run for the Senate. “I’m absolutely pleasantly surprised by the amount of support. I’m not reaching out to people, people are reaching out to me.”

For now, Avella said he is not eyeing another mayoral race.

“A lot of people who supported me in the campaign have expressed interest in my running again in four years,” he said. “But that’s in the future.”

Padavan’s seat covers Bellerose, Bayside, Little Neck, Douglaston, Jamaica Estates, New Hyde Park, Floral Park, Whitestone, College Point and Hollis.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at nduke@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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