An attorney with close ties to Queens County politics is planning to challenge embattled State Senator Malcolm Smith next year.
Mr. Smith, still reeling from an arrest on corruption charges earlier this year, is openly despised by his fellow Senate Democrats after caucusing briefly with a breakaway faction of Democrats that govern the Senate with Republicans and is considered a major target in 2014. In an interview, Munir Avery, who already has a campaign website set up for the bid, directly stated his intention to run.
“I felt strongly: If I vote for a Democrat, they should conference with the Democrats so Democrats can be in charge of the chamber,” Mr. Avery told Politicker. “We need to get progressive legislation through the chamber.”
The Queens County Democratic Party, which has close ties to Senate Democrats through the shared consulting firm the Parkside Group, has been actively hunting for formidable challengers to take on Mr. Smith, who was indicted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for allegedly taking part in a bribery scheme that aimed to land him on the Republican ballot for mayor.
Mr. Avery is vying for that support but the Senate and Queens Democrats have yet to decide on a candidate.
“I want to move the agenda that the Democratic caucus has been fighting for and Malcolm Smith has not helped,” Mr. Avery said. “One thing he is not fighting for that I plan on fighting for is campaign finance reform.”
Mr. Avery is linked to the Democratic establishment. He serves as counsel to Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz, the treasurer of the county organization. Mr. Simanowitz boasts his own longstanding relationships with organized labor that insiders say could potentially boost Mr. Avery. Mr. Avery also did a stint at the Queens District attorney’s office.
“With the trial date for Smith coming sometime next year during the campaign, I’d guess that as long as we get behind one candidate, whoever they are, they’ll have a good shot,” said one Queens Democratic insider.
Despite his alleged corruption and flirtations with the Republican Party, Mr. Smith remains a strong contender thanks to high name recognition and deep roots in the district, insiders also noted.
Mr. Smith, through a spokesperson, declined to comment on the challenge.