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John Messer, an Oakland Gardens businessman and lawyer, officially kicked off his challenge to state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) Sunday, touting his multicultural credentials in a redrawn, more diverse district.
“We are very confident as we go out in the community,” Messer said. “We hear the same thing over and over again. Voters of this district want change.”
The fellow Democrats are competing in a district that was redrawn this spring to encompass Flushing, Queensboro Hill, Murray Hill and Kissena Park at its heart, with two arms extending outward from the center.
One reaches west through Forest Hills, Elmhurst and a small portion of Woodside, and the other to the east through Bayside along the Long Island Expressway. It is composed of 53 percent Asian residents, which could include anyone whose background is from East Asian countries like China or Korea or South Asian countries like India or Bangladesh.
Messer, whose wife was born in New York a year after her parents emigrated from China, stood among campaign signs in Chinese and English and wasted no time in criticizing Stavisky.
“For more than a decade as Flushing’s senator, Toby Stavisky has never hired an Asian staffer,” Messer said. “As you can see here today, both of my campaign co-chairs are Asian, but it’s not political for me. My family is Asian and my wife is Asian.”
And Messer, unlike Stavisky, has been advertising in several Chinese-language news outlets, including World Journal, China Press, Sino Vision and Chinese Radio Network, according to campaign finance reports filed with the state Board of Elections.
The lawyer and businessman had about $230,500 in his coffers as of the last filing period July 12. He had no individual donors but instead self-financed his run with $351,600 of his own money, spending about $120,000 so far. Stavisky, on the other hand, had about $211,000 in cash on hand.
Messer’s kickoff was attended by a slew of supporters, including his former opponent from the 2010 election for the same seat, Isaac Sasson.
“For far too long we have had a senator who has done nothing for us,” he said. “I urge all those who supported my candidacy two years ago to now vote for change and help elect John Messer,” Sasson said in a statement.
But there was also another guest at the kickoff who showed up from across the aisle.
City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone), who is running for the U.S. House of Representatives on the Republican ticket against Grace Meng (D-Flushing), made an appearance at the event, a point that was not lost on Stavisky.
The senator took Messer to task for allowing Halloran to attend the event, even though Messer said he had not invited the councilman.
“While this kind of stunt shouldn’t be surprising from a former Republican like John Messer, it is nonetheless a slap in the face to Queens Democrats,” Stavisky said in a statement.
The campaign, still in the early stages, has already turned into a constant back-and-forth between the two rivals, with Messer countering that his staff worked full-time for Meng, whom he endorsed during her primary run.
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4566.
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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