State Senator Tony Avella is accusing Councilman Peter Vallone Jr., a rival in the race for Queens borough president, of repeatedly “bullying” and “threatening” him in a push to get him to drop his bid.
“Personally, I think he’s a bully and a coward and afraid of having me on the ballot,” Mr. Avella told Politicker today, claiming Mr. Vallone has tried several times over the course of the election to get him to leave the race. “Let the chips fall where they may.”
Mr. Avella and his campaign claim that a Vallone staffer called Mr. Avella twice yesterday to try to make a deal with the senator to duck out of the contest. According to sources in the Avella camp, the staffer called in the late afternoon to offer Mr. Avella an ultimatum: Leave the race or be kicked off the ballot.
“They said, ‘We’re at the BOE looking at your petitions, we see lots of problems. We can make you waste your money,'” the source said. “They wanted to make a deal, but Tony wouldn’t talk to Peter.”
A general objection was filed today against Mr. Avella’s petitions from a woman named Rebecca Piniero, who is unaffiliated with the Vallone campaign.
But the Vallone campaign vehemently denied any threats had been made.
“This is another desperate attempt by Tony Avella to get attention by spreading false accusations,” said a Vallone spokesman. “If Mr. Avella doesn’t make the ballot, it’s because his floundering campaign couldn’t get enough legitimate signatures. Those are the facts.”
The two pols, both known for their verbal flamboyance and willingness to buck the Democratic establishment, have never been close. Most recently, Mr. Avella accused Mr. Vallone of being fed answers by text message during a borough presidents forum. Mr. Vallone denied the charges and another candidate backed him up, claiming he was just texting his daughter and checking his Twitter feed.
Mr. Avella also complicates Mr. Vallone’s path to victory against county-backed front-runner Melinda Katz. While Mr. Vallone has vastly out-raised Mr. Avella and is relatively well-known across the borough, political observers believe Mr. Avella, an Italian-American like Mr. Vallone, will pick off voters that would otherwise support Mr. Vallone. This may be particularly true in Mr. Avella’s northeast Queens base where Mr. Vallone’s brother, Paul, is running for an open City Council seat.
“I think he’s worried I have a lot of support he might if I wasn’t in the race,” said Mr. Avella, adding, “I don’t make deals. I’m surprised he doesn’t know that about me.”