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Flushing attorney Paul Vallone sat on top of the five-way primary bid for the Democratic line by the end of voting Tuesday, but one opponent refused to concede in the race for the northeast Queens City Council seat.
As of press time, Vallone had received more than 31 percent of the vote with 99 percent of precincts reporting, the Associated Press said, beating out four other Democrats hoping for the chance to face off against Republican and GOP-backed Dennis Saffran for the 19th Council District in November.
He was all smiles Tuesday night as he walked into a loud and joyous celebration party at Vivaldi’s of Bayside, packed with supporters and political heavy-hitters like U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) and state Assemblyman Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside).
“We did it, everybody. This is how we do it as a family. It was about family unity and a Democratic Party that stands together,” said Vallone, the Queens Democratic Party’s pick for the seat. “It’s not over. This is a land that we know has Council members from the other party. As a unified Democratic Party, we are going to take back our Council seat, everybody.”
But Austin Shafran, former spokesman for Empire State Development, was waiting for the official vote count.
He received more than 29 percent of the vote and trailed Vallone by only 144 votes as of press time, according to the AP. And even though Vallone declared victory, Bayside’s Shafran said there were still absentee, affidavit and emergency ballots waiting to be counted.
“We’re going to keep fighting to ensure that every vote is fairly and fully counted,” Shafran said. “We will use every legal remedy possible to ensure that every vote of every community member is fairly and fully counted.”
Nonetheless, Vallone was only looking ahead at his party, heard telling supporters, “This is going to be our race” as they offered their congratulations.
The top two beat out three other Democrats in the crowded primary, including Flushing urban planning consultant Paul Graziano with 17.6 percent, former state Assemblyman John Duane with 11.5 percent and former Halloran chief-of-staff Chrissy Voskerichian with 10.3 percent.
In the final hours of the primary vote, Vallone said his campaign made a last-minute push when he heard it was close with Shafran.
Vallone was the first to declare a run for the seat back in January and more candidates continued to throw their hats into the race as the months progressed. The Council campaign got much hotter in early April, when incumbent Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) was arrested and indicted on charges accusing him of using corruption and bribery to get state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Hollis) into the mayoral race as a Republican.
The ensuing months consisted of several heated public forums revolving around quality-of-life issues and restoring integrity to the district left bruised in the wake of the scandal. Vallone was at the center of criticism in the weeks leading up to the primary after Jobs for New York, a political action committee with the Real Estate Board of New York, started distributing negative campaign attack ads in support of his campaign.
His victory set up another battle in which Vallone will go up against Republican challenger Saffran from Douglaston for the 19th District seat in the general election Nov. 5.
Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.
©2013 Community Newspaper Group
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