How do voters get a clear picture of who is campaigning to represent them in local government? How can they trust politicians when their current local representative has been charged with corruption and messages in the campaign to replace him are muddied by outside groups? How do candidates break through the noise to get their messages across? Welcome to the city council race in northeast Queens’ District 19.
One of the leading Democratic candidates in the race isPaul Vallone, who, when discussing his candidacy, points to the fact that he is the only Democratic candidate running who has children in the district’s schools and the only one who owns a small business within the district. Vallone is quick, firm, and convincing when discussing his commitment to his district and the people of his community.
In the crowded Democratic race, Vallone’s strongest competition comes from John Duane and Austin Shafran, who have accrued a great deal of institutional support from labor unions and elected officials. Vallone runs as a more conservative Democrat, with a strong focus on jobs and public safety. If he is able to win the party primary, he will face Republican Dennis Saffran in November’s general election.
Vallone’s business is a law firm that has been in his family for over 80 years. Vallone said that these are the things that are part of your life which should be worth something to voters. Despite the long history of the family business, Vallone said that he will have to find someone to replace him in the firm in order to attend to all the responsibilities of his new position should he win the election.
A major focus of the district 19 race has been on the independent expenditures on Vallone’s behalf by political action committee (PAC) Jobs for NY. The PAC has sent out mailers to voters in the district negatively portraying the other Democratic candidates; the candidates retaliated by meeting and denouncing the tactic and implicating Vallone’s complicity in the smear campaign. When asked about the recent drama Vallone said that he has no control over the actions of the PAC, that he wishes it would stay out of the campaign and “leave us be”. Vallone says he has run a positive campaign and does not appreciate the tension Jobs for NY has brought into the race.
Having run in 2009, Vallone says, “This campaign is definitely different from the last campaign” because he has so much support from elected officials, including Queens Congresswoman Grace Meng. Vallone hopes the endorsements he has received combined with his personal and family history of involvement in local politics will help earn people’s trust. “No one can take away what you’ve done,” he said, “The life that you lead is shown through the campaign you run.”
Digging into specific issues, Vallone pointed out as a major concern what he described as the recent muzzling of the NYPD at the hands of the current City Council. The council passed two bills, known as the Community Safety Act, and then overrode vetoes of them by Mayor Bloomberg. The more controversial of the two will expand the power of people to bring lawsuits against the NYPD for racial profiling. Many, including Vallone, believe that criticisms of the NYPD have gone too far and take away important police discretion, which will now leave city residents more vulnerable to crimes. “I don’t know how we can keep them safe,” Vallone said ominously.
Vallone said that should he win the council seat the first issue that he would work on in office would be to fight for more of the city’s funds to go to his district. He and other candidates feel that district 19 pays more than their fare share in taxes in comparison with how much funding they receive back from the city. Adding funds to the district’s coffers could provide the neighborhoods of northeastern Queens with the resources needed to combat the challenges facing the community, including keeping crime down, Vallone says.
Reiterating his deep roots in the community and plan to be a tireless fighter for its residents and those of the city at large, Vallone portrays a fervent determination to succeed in his bid to represent district 19 on the council. As the final days of the primary campaign tick down, he’s focused and optimistic, sounding confident that he has done all he can do to convince voters in the district that he is the right choice.