Steve Israel Endorses Tony Avella Over John Liu

Congressman Steve Israel. (Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Congressman Steve Israel. (Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Congressman Steve Israel, the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, has endorsed State Senator Tony Avella’s re-election bid, Mr. Avella’s campaign announced today.

Mr. Israel, a Long Island-based congressman who represents a chunk of eastern Queens that overlaps with Mr. Avella’s district, said the Queens Democrat worked closely with him since Mr. Israel recently began representing Queens.

“When Congressional redistricting brought me to Queens, Senator Avella was one of the first elected officials to reach out,” Mr. Israel said in a statement. “He partnered with me on combating airplane noise, fighting for our veterans and standing up for New York’s middle-class families. I’ve seen firsthand his relentless work ethic and dedication to his district. For these reasons, I endorse Tony Avella’s candidacy.”

Mr. Avella is up against former Comptroller John Liu, who has raised significantly more money than Mr. Avella. The Queens Democratic Party and the area’s elected officials, including Congresswoman Grace Meng, are firmly behind Mr. Liu, setting up what appears to be a clash between Mr. Israel and Congressman Joe Crowley, the chair of the Queens Democratic Party and also a high-ranking Democrat in Washington.

But Queens insiders don’t see any real rift developing between Mr. Crowley and Mr. Israel. After Mr. Avella joined a group of breakaway Democrats that govern the State Senate with the Republican Party, Mr. Crowley pushed Mr. Liu to run against Mr. Avella: it was this primary, in part, that eventually drove the Independent Democratic Conference to agree last month to eventually govern with the mainline Democratic conference, potentially putting the GOP in the minority for 2015.

Though Mr. Crowley is intent on driving Mr. Avella from office, he accomplished much of his goal by helping to drive a deal between the Democrats and the IDC, Queens observers say. Mr. Israel’s endorsement, therefore, may not sting as much as it would have before the deal was made.

“Joe planted his flag and can declare victory. He’s the only county leader who had the balls to challenge the IDC like this,” a Queens Democrat sympathetic with Mr. Crowley explained.

After the deal was made, labor unions and the Democratic conference agreed to not support primary challengers to IDC members any longer. The labor-backed Working Families Party withdrew their support of Mr. Liu and Mr. Avella even won some labor endorsements afterward, though a smattering of unions remain loyal to Mr. Liu. Mayor Bill de Blasio, who helped broker the IDC deal, also backed Mr. Avella.

Mr. Liu’s camp touted his own momentum and pointed to the number of Queens pols who endorsed him.

“Support for Democrat John Liu’s campaign is growing every day and we’re honored to have the strong endorsements of three of the District’s most respected leaders, Congressmembers Joe Crowley, Grace Meng and Greg Meeks,” said James Freedland, a spokesman for the campaign. “Elected leaders, community members and grassroots supporters know that John Liu is the only choice to stand up to the Republican status quo and fight for good jobs, affordable housing and better schools for every community in the 11th District.”

Updated with comment from Mr. Liu’s campaign.