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Riding a wave of support from southeast Queens, former City Councilwoman Melinda Katz defeated Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) in a hard-fought Democratic primary for borough president and now faces a Republican challenger in the general election.
The former chairwoman of the Council’s powerful Land Use Committee, passed the first test in her quest to return to public life after leaving office in 2009 and losing a bid for city comptroller.
Katz, who has also served as a state assemblywoman and deputy borough president, netted 44.5 percent of the vote to Vallone’s 33.7 percent, according to results from the Associated Press with 99 percent of the vote counted.
Katz entered her primary night party at The Flying Pig in Forest Hills surrounded by a bevy of Queens elected officials and her partner, Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels.
“We worked together as a team to win this election not just for me, but for the borough of Queens,” she said during her victory speech.
Flanked by U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley, head of the Queens Democrats, Katz said she was proud to have secured the party’s nod.
“It means you win,” she joked, also crediting her campaign staff and hundreds of volunteers with the victory.
Katz will face Republican Tony Arcabascio in the general election two months from now to succeed Borough President Helen Marshall.
“We will have a win in November,” she said.
At his primary night party in Long Island City, Vallone Jr. was introduced by his father, Peter Vallone Sr., the former Council speaker. Vallone Jr. told his supporters to “chin up.”
“We took on the whole world and we scared the hell out of them,” Vallone Jr. said.
The Astoria councilman said his opponents had to resort to distorting his political record to defeat him.
“We kept a clean, honest campaign,” he said. “I’m so proud of everyone.”
“We started this campaign as an independent, honest voice for Queens,” Vallone Jr. said. “And we are not going to stop there. We are going to continue to fight.”
Vallone Jr. called Katz and told her he would help her in any way he can.
Both candidates and their respective teams were scouring the borough as part of a get-out-the vote operation throughout the day.
Katz’s schedule indicated the importance of southeast Queens in the race.
She greeted voters at 7:30 a.m. in St. Albans before heading back up to Elmhurst at 10 a.m. and then her home turf of Forest Hills at noon, her schedule said.
By 3:30 p.m. she was back in southeast Queens for the rest of the day until her victory party began at 9 p.m.
Katz had been endorsed by several prominent figures in southeast Queens, including the Rev. Floyd Flake, who picked the mother of two over another prominent figure in the community, Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), before the lawmaker dropped out.
“I was going to vote for Comrie, but when he dropped out I decided to vote for Katz,” Community Board 12 member Celeste James said outside the polling place at the Campus Magnet Complex in Cambria Heights.
Much of her base in central Queens also came out in support.
“She has experience and also a sense of community,” said Mohammad Billah.
Katz and Vallone were the last two competitors in what started out as a crowded Democratic primary last year. In addition to Katz and Vallone, the field initially included state Sens. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst), Comrie, Director of Community Boards Barry Grodenchik and longshot candidate Everly Brown.
Candidates gradually dropped out of the race, though Avella waited until mid-August to do so. Because the primary process was so far along by that point, his name still appeared on Tuesday’s ballot, where he captured 9.3 percent of the vote. Everly Brown drew 12.6 percent.
Political insiders speculated that if Avella had dropped out earlier, many of the votes he received would have likely gone to Vallone, but even if Vallone had received all of them he still would have been more than 1,000 shy of Katz’s total.
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.
©2013 Community Newspaper Group
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