In a surprise move, State Senator Tony Avella announced this afternoon he will drop out of the Queens borough president’s race, setting up a two-way slugfest between former Councilwoman Melinda Katz and Councilman Peter Vallone Jr.
“After much thought and consideration, I have decided to withdraw from the Queens Borough President race,” Mr. Avella said in a statement. “This was certainly not an easy decision and I am eternally grateful for the overwhelming amount of support I received from people throughout Queens.”
“Yet, at this time, I believe I can best serve the people of Queens by remaining a State Senator,” he added. “When I first ran for the State Senate, I ran on a platform of reforming Albany. It has become clear that there is still a lot of work left to be done.”
Mr. Avella, an outspoken legislator from eastern Queens, was a perpetual thorn in the side of Mr. Vallone, accusing him of being a “coward” after his petitions were challenged and repeatedly clashing with him during a televised debate. However, Mr. Avella, unlike Ms. Katz and Mr. Vallone, struggled to raise money: after receiving matching funds, he had a little over $319,000 in his campaign account, compared to $744,529 for Ms. Katz and roughly $1 million for Mr. Vallone.
His exit should help Mr. Vallone. Both lawmakers were competing over white, moderate voters in northeast Queens–especially Italian-Americans–who, common wisdom holds, will now be more likely to lean toward supporting Mr. Vallone.
Mr. Avella joins a long list of elected officials who have dropped out of the race, including State Senator Jose Peralta and Councilman Leroy Comrie.
Long-shot real estate executive Everly Brown is the only other candidate left in the Democratic primary to face Mr. Vallone and Ms. Katz, who is backed by the Queens Democratic Party and a bevy of labor unions.
Update (6:36 p.m.):
Ms. Katz responded to the news with a statement praising Mr. Avella.
“For more than a decade, Tony Avella has worked around the clock to speak up for hardworking families in Queens, and fought to make their lives better,” she said. “His presence in this race brought the focus to real issues facing voters around our borough—including education, affordable housing, and better healthcare for all Queens residents. I’m grateful to have engaged in that dialogue with Tony, and look forward to working with him in the future as he remains a forceful voice for more open, honest, and transparent government in Albany.”
“For my part, I will spend the next 27 days continuing to spread the word about the clear choice facing voters in this race—between my progressive plan for better healthcare and high-paying jobs in Queens, and Peter Vallone’s extreme Conservative Party-backed views on core issues like women’s healthcare and marriage equality,” she added.