GETTING PERSONAL IN QUEENS
Three women, all Democrats, have declared their candidacy for a sometimes
viciously personal race in the 16th State Senate District in Queens, which
includes Flushing, Bay Terrace, Forest Hills and Rego Park.
Former City Councilmember Julia Harrison, accuses her long-time poltical
rival, incumbent Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, of lacking social graces, among
other things. Political newcomer Marcia
Lynn says that neither of her opponents
"[has] done such a great job."
For all the animosity, the candidates largely agree on many of the problems
facing the district, including the need to do something about the sad state
of the public school system and the lack of affordable housing. All agree as
well that the Rockefeller drug laws need to be softened, and the commuter tax
School funding is the most pressing educational issue, says Stavisky.
"We need proper funding and equitable formulas that don't favor the
suburbs at the expense of the city." Furthermore, she believes that the
school system suffers from centralized power. "It's terribly unfair
when the Senate majority does not distribute funding equitably....
Members from one party can provide all kinds of benefits for their
constituents, and when you're in the minority, you get one tenth of the
resources." She believes that the committee system should be
reinvigorated within the Senate, giving committee chairs more power, and
giving every bill at least some discussion.
Harrison would like to see an overhaul of the Regents, the state body that
oversees all the school systems. "I am not convinced that the city
children are treated fairly, whether it's in this city, in Buffalo, or
any other major city in New York, and I think that the changes would
have to emanate from the body of the Regents," she says.
Lynn believes that the quality of the school systems is the most
important issue facing New York. "The biggest problem is that no one
has actually sat down and figured out how much waste we have: you have
100,000 children in the seventh grade; why don't all 100,00 have the
same book? If you call up a book manufacturer and order 100,000 books
from the same place, you're going to be getting a better price." She
champions rooting out inefficiencies and implementing a consistent
curriculum among school districts. She also believes that candidates
for the local school board should have a child in the school system.
Noting the need for affordable housing in her community, Lynn says that,
if elected, she would push for the creation of another
which would provide affordable housing for middle income families.
"There's plenty of land which can be built upon," she says.
Stavisky also believes new development is crucial, especially for
Flushing. "We need to take a look at zoning, take a look at various
proposals, perhaps put together an economic summit so this can be
discussed with professional planners," she says.
Harrison also believes that housing is an important issue for her
district, but offered no specific solutions.
Harrison would work to raise her senate colleague' awareness about the
"dire need" of her constituents on "issues that relate to [their]
well-being," she says, "basically health care, affordable housing,
education." She would also try to improve the legislative process by
pushing for a more open attitude in Albany. Issues need to be decided
by the entire legislature, she said, not just three men - the governor,
the State Senate Leader and Speaker of the State Assembly - who
typically hammer out agreements on pending legislation behind closed
Ideas about election reform excite Lynn. "I believe that we should have
non-partisan elections. I think it's very detrimental to the petition
process, especially in a year where they have redistricted, and
completely cut up the neighborhood." She has also stated her position
on campaign finance reform. "It's a little sickening that you have to
raise $250,000 to run in a race to win a seat that pays $90,000," she
says. She does not support the four-to-one matching funds legislation currently pending in the Assembly,
believing that the state should not give out such large amounts of money,
however, she does support one-to-one matching, with caps on how much can
Stavisky highlights broader economic issues as part of her campaign.
Noting that 1,000 jobs have been lost as a result of the September 11th
attacks, the senator emphasized that something needs to be done to keep
people in New York and attract new jobs to the city. "We need to
provide the kind of quality of life that keeps people in New York, and
what keeps people in New York are the schools and a sense of security.
We have to look at our tax structure; there are loopholes and inequities
in the taxation system and the property tax areas-- we have to do our
best to make it easier for people to do business in New York."
Things Get Personal
rarely miss an opportunity to criticize their opponents.
After her husband, Dr. Leonard Price Stavisky, died in office in June
1999, after having served over 30 years, Toby Stavisky was elected to his
seat in the Senate. Harrison says she "[does not] approve of someone
walking in just because someone's husband died." Their rivalry extends
back to the 1980's, when Harrison easily beat Stavisky in a State
"I would command greater respect from the constituents; I don't perceive
that the senator [Stavisky] has the social graces to endear her to her
constituents," Harrison says. But Harrison herself has
been accused of anti-Asian sentiment, which could be a serious drawback
in a district in which 33 percent of the population is Asian.
Lynn has tried to distance herself from her opponents by emphasizing her
"A lot of people that are elected don't deal with the realities of life.
They come from very wealthy backgrounds, so the economy is not going to
affect them," she says. "I am a single mother, I raised my kid on my
own, and I know what it is to pay for private school."
"We don't have any innovative thinkers in the state
legislature, and in my race especially."
The heavily gerrymandered 16th District is the largest in the state with
at least 363,000 residents. Some of the candidates believe the
population is even higher, since it includes many immigrants who may
have avoided the last census count. Ethnically diverse, the population
is approximately 43 percent white, 33 percent Asian, and 15 percent Hispanic.
Senate District 16 is really an open seat, claims Lynn, as Stavisky is
only an incumbent for 20 percent of the current district. Stavisky has
the backing of the powerful Queens Democratic Party. Harrison is
endorsed by the Democratic Club of Flushing. Lynn did not seek party
--posted August 5,2002
September 2, 2002
For Toby Stavisky, State Senator from Queens, being recognized has particular importance because her
opponent in the Democratic primary, former Councilwoman Julia Harrison, represented a portion of
the district for 14 years. (New York Times)
June 19, 2002
State Senator Toby Stavisky and former Councilmember Julia Harrison are likely to provide one of the most interesting primaries as they vie for the Democratic nomination in the newly configured 6th Senate district covering the greater Flushing area. Stavisky is the Democratic-endorsed candidate for the post and she will no doubt be supported by the regular organization. The two are set to square off in their first campaign confrontation on June 25, at a candidates night held by the Flushing Forum for the Development of Political leaders. A third candidate seeking the seat, Marcia Lynn of Forest Hills, has also been invited to attend. In one of her latest blasts at Stavisky, Harrison said she didn't approve of a wife succeeding a husband who has passed away. Stavisky fired back that Harrison makes outrageous statements to try to cover up past failures as a lawmaker.
(Western Queens Gazette)
May 30, 2002
A local civic activist, instrumental in the closure of a notorious Forest Hills strip club, has announced her candidacy for the 16th Senate District, adding yet another twist to what many political insiders perceive as the borough's most hotly-contested race. Marcia Lynn will face a steep uphill battle against two of the borough's most experienced-- and well connected-- politicians. Lynn said that neither of her opponents have done anything "so outstanding" as to be reelected.
May 22, 2002
In Flushing, the party voted to back incumbent Senator Toby Stavisky for re-election. Ethel Chen, who lost a Council primary last year to John Liu (D-Flushing), is running on a ticket with former Councilmember Julia Harrison, who is opposing Stavisky in the Senate primary. This will be one of the party organization's toughest pair of races; maximum resistance can be expected from Chen and Harrison. Chen will augment her strength in the Asian American community.
(Western Queens Gazette)
May 21, 2002
Former Councilwoman Julia Harrison, who is mounting her own insurgent campaign against State Senator Toby Stavisky, nominated her ally Ethel Chen. Party officials tried to work out a deal with Chen, almost to the last minute, offering her the designation in return for Harrison's dropping out of the race and other concessions. But Chen, well-known in Flushing, refused. (New York Daily News)
May 19, 2002
Harrison has an uphill battle against Stavisky, who will almost certainly have more money and the organization's support. But political insiders are keeping a close eye on the battle between the long-time enemies that has all the makings of a nasty race. (New York Daily News)
May 2, 2002
Former Assemblywoman, recently term-limited Councilwoman, Democratic District Leader and controversial octogenarian Julia Harrison has announced she's running for State Senate against State Senator and District Leader Toby Stavisky. Harrison has criticized Stavisky in the media constantly, saying she only won her seat because her husband Leonard Stavisky died while in office. The two had squared off previously in a bitter 1986 election when Harrison beat Stavisky for the Council. The race is on and its going to be a hot one in Queens.
May 2, 2002
Endorsed by the Democratic Club of Flushing, Harrison announced Saturday that she will run for State Senate in the 16th District. Harrison said she would wait to start her campaign following a Department of Justice ruling to confirm the official lines of the new district. As conceived now, the new district would eliminate part of the current Western Queens neighborhoods and be extended to include most of Daniel Hevesi's central Queens 13th District that takes in Forest Hills and Kew Gardens. Currently, Stavisky represents areas from Flushing to Sunnyside. (Queens Chronicle)
April 25, 2002
In what could be the most fascinating local race of the year, former City Councilwoman Julia Harrison says she is all but certain she will challenge rival Toby Ann Stavisky for her Flushing State Senate seat. Harrison has had a history of controversial statements such as saying that Asians don't vote, and she is apparently not about to stop now. The two fist clashed when they were seeking their party's nomination for an Assembly seat in the early 1980s. Harrison won, and they battled again for City Council, where Harrison clobbered Stavisky. (New York Daily News)