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Tony Avella Leads Democratic Primary in Quest to Reclaim His Former Bayside City Council Seat

Tony Avella (Tony Avella for NYC)

June 23, 2021 By Allie Griffin

Tony Avella, a former state senator and city council member, is in a strong position to reclaim his old city council seat representing the 19th Council District, early election results show.

Avella — who served in the City Council from 2002 to 2009 — has earned 37.1 percent of in-person, first-choice votes in the Democratic primary for his old seat representing Auburndale, Bay Terrace, Bayside, Beechhurst, College Point, Douglaston, Flushing, Little Neck, Malba and Whitestone, according to election night results.

Richard Lee is in second place with 29.9 percent of the vote and Austin Shafran is in third place with 20.03 percent. The remaining candidates each earned less than 10 percent of the vote.

Avella’s lead is somewhat of an upset as Shafran was both the Queens Democratic Party and Working Families pick. Shafran had been endorsed by several powerful legislators and labor unions including his prior boss former U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, State Sen. John Liu and leading mayoral candidate Eric Adams.

Lee, who is the budget director for the Queens borough president’s office, also snagged a good number of endorsements. He earned the support of U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi, State Sen. Leroy Comrie, plus city council members Margaret Chin, Bob Holden, Peter Koo and I. Daneek Miller.

Avella, however, has by no means won. He was still well short of bringing in more than 50 percent of the first-choice votes, so the city’s new ranked-choice voting system will be used to determine the winner.

The candidate with the least amount of first-choice votes — Nabaraj Kc in this case — will be eliminated and people who chose him for their top choice will have their second choice counted. This process will continue until one candidate receives a majority of votes or more than 50 percent.

District residents will likely not know the official winner of D-19 race for weeks.

The Board of Elections (BOE) will release the results of the ranked choice tabulation in one week — on Tuesday, June 29 — based on in-person votes. The board will continue to update the results each week as absentee ballots come in until it certifies the results.

The BOE, however, is not expected to certify the results of the primary elections until the week of July 12 or later to allow time for absentee ballots to come in.

The winner of the primary election will move on to face off in the November general election against Republican Vickie Paladino.

Paladino, a small business owner and member of the Whitestone Republican Club, likely won the competitive Republican primary for District 19 as she secured 52.7 percent of in-person votes, according to unofficial election night results. Her opponent, John-Alexander Sakelos received 45.96 percent of votes, with 99 percent of scanners reported.

Though the seat has not gone to a Republican since Daniel Halloran won it in 2009, the district contains areas that had voted decisively in favor of Donald Trump in the 2020 general election.

The winner of the Nov. 2 general election will replace term-limited Council Member Paul Vallone.

Should Avella win both the primary and general election, he will be the second former council member in Queens to reclaim his seat this year.

Council Member James Gennaro won his former District 24 seat in a special election in February– and won Tuesday’s primary. He held the same D-24 council seat from 2002 to 2013 before Rory Lancman took over.

(New York City Board of Elections)