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Council race expands after Halloran arrest

Republican Dennis Saffran (l.) is entering the crowded race to challenge City Councilman Dan Halloran, while former candidate for the seat Kevin Kim is rumored to also be considering a run. Photo (l.) courtesy Saffran
TimesLedger Newspapers

While the race to challenge City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) was already crowded on the Democratic side, a member of his own party has stepped up for a spot on the ballot now that the lawmaker faces federal corruption charges.

Halloran had been preparing to defend his northeast Queens seat against a growing list of Democratic challengers. But after his early April arrest on charges linking him to an elaborate bribery and conspiracy scheme involving five other lawmakers, another Republican set his sights on the seat.

A federal indictment accused Halloran of helping negotiate bribes with Republican Party leaders to get state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Hollis) a spot on the mayoral ballot as a Republican.

Dennis Saffran, who lost a bid for the same Council seat in 2001 when he ran against Tony Avella, who is now a state senator, said he would be filing for another run at the spot within the week. Avella defeated him by fewer than 400 votes, city Board of Elections results showed.

Citing the close race against Avella, the former head of public interest group Center for Community Interest said he hoped to draw on his years working alongside former Mayor Rudy Giuliani to restore honesty throughout the district.

“I want to preserve and build on the advances in public safety and neighborhood quality of life of the Giuliani and Bloomberg years,” Saffran said. “As many of you know, I ran a public interest group that worked for many of the Giuliani policies that turned this city around — like the crackdown on porn shops and squeegee men — and I don’t want to turn back the clock.”

On the Democratic side, a number of candidates have already entered the race to challenge the Republican councilman, including Paul Graziano, an activist and urban planning consultant; Austin Shafran, a former member of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration; Paul Vallone, an attorney, who ran for the seat back in 2009; and former state Assemblyman John Duane.

But the corruption scandal may also spur others to join the race, according to a Queens Democratic observer, who said Halloran’s name has been weakened as an incumbent. His district covers Little Neck, Bayside, Douglaston, North Flushing, Whitestone, Auburndale and College Point.

Kevin Kim, who already ran for the seat against Halloran in 2009 after overcoming a crowded Democratic primary, has been rumored to be interested in joining the growing list of challengers.

Ikhwan Rim, a Korean community leader and president of the Union Street Merchants Association in Flushing, said Kim has been testing the waters for another possible Council run given the current Democratic field.

“It’s anybody’s game,” Rim said. “You don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Rim said a big chunk of the 19th Council District includes a significant Korean population and that Kim’s candidacy could potentially energize them into getting them to vote out the embattled Halloran.

“That’s sometimes the nature of the election,” Rim said. “He might feel he’s going to get a lot of Korean votes. You just don’t know.”

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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Ooops from Queens says:
The photo's caption mistakenly says "Ron Kim." The person in the photo on the right is Kevin Kim.
April 25, 2013, 12:08 pm

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