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Duane joins Dems in race for Council

Former state Assemblyman John Duane is throwing his hat into a crowded City Council race.
TimesLedger Newspapers

A former state Assemblyman from Little Neck formally announced his candidacy for City Council, jumping into an already crowded Democratic race to replace embattled Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone), who announced Wednesday he will not seek re-election.

John Duane, 59, spent the last several months raising money and positioning himself for the Council run until finally making it official last week. The announcement came just weeks after incumbent Halloran was arrested April 2 on federal corruption and bribery charges.

As the September Democratic primary nears, Duane said he would be focusing his campaign on issues including senior citizens’ and veterans’ services, overdevelopment and consumer advocacy.

The Democratic field has grown to five candidates, including Flushing urban planning consultant Paul Graziano, attorney Paul Vallone, Austin Shafran, of the state’s economic development agency Empire State Development and former Halloran staffer Chrissy Voskerichian.

Meanwhile, members of Halloran’s own party have stepped up for his seat as the councilman faces federal charges of corruption and bribery, accusing him of trying to help state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Hollis) secure a spot in the upcoming mayoral race on the GOP line.

GOP-backed Dennis Saffran and Rudy S. Giuliani, cousin of the former mayor with the same name, have already joined the race, while rumors have also pointed toward former Democratic Council candidate Kevin Kim.

Duane served one two-year term in the Assembly in the 1980s before losing the seat to former Republican Assemblyman Doug Prescott. He also ran for Assembly in 2010, when he was defeated by Assemblyman Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside).

While in the Assembly, Duane authored 22 bills, including the Vietnam Veterans Tuition Assistance Law, an issue he said he would keep a top priority if elected to the Council.

Duane, a former assistant attorney general, also served as vice president of the Little Neck Community Association and the Little Neck Historical Society.

After leaving public office for more than two decades to raise his three children and focus on his practice, the Little Neck attorney said he was anxious to get back to serving his community in government.

“As a lifelong resident of northeast Queens, I have a deep affection for and keen understanding of what makes our neighborhoods desirable places to live, work and raise a family,” Duane said in a statement. “I also have an appreciation for the complex challenges we face — overdevelopment, quality-of-life issues and public servants who abuse our trust.”

After his arrest, the Council voted to strip Halloran of all his committee assignments. Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) also said this week the Council Standards and Ethics Committee would investigate claims accusing the councilman of having affairs with former staffers, potentially booting him from the Council altogether.

Duane said his campaign would make it a point to counteract the cynicism Halloran’s scandal might incite in voters throughout the district.

“Hardworking New Yorkers who play by the rules too often have their voices drowned out by special interests wielding a megaphone of big money and insider access,” Duane said. “My life’s work has been dedicated to taking on those special interests and leveling the playing field.”

The 19th Council District spans northeast Queens and includes the neighborhoods of Little Neck, Bayside, Douglaston, North Flushing, Whitestone, Auburndale and College Point.

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

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