Tony Avella, a longtime Democrat who has served in both the New York City Council and state Senate, conceded defeat in his run for his old 19th Council District seat in northern Queens following a count of absentee ballots. His loss in the tight race opened the door for his Republican rival, Vickie Paladino, to become the fifth GOP member to serve on the council come January.
“I want to thank all of my supporters and volunteers who worked tirelessly on our campaign,” Avella tweeted on Wednesday. “Although we lost, I am proud of the positive and issued based campaign we waged.”
Avella did not return a message seeking further comment.
Paladino won by roughly 400 votes, more than enough to stave off any legal challenge, according to her spokesperson, Robert Hornak. Campaign watchers observe the counting of mail-in ballots by the New York City Board of Elections (NYCBOE), which began Monday. The NYCBOE does not disclose official results until after commissioners certify the election when they meet on November 30th.
Avella, who won the Democratic primary in June, previously represented the same council district through 2009. He was then elected to the state Senate representing the 11th District in Queens in 2011, joining the now-defunct Independent Democratic Conference. He was defeated in 2018 by John Liu following a wave of resentment toward IDC members for caucusing with Republicans.
Even before Avella conceded, Paladino expressed certainty that she’d win the contest, posting a statement on Twitter on Tuesday declaring, “our election night victory will stand.”
“We now look forward to our transition and beginning the hard work of delivering on our agenda to the community,” Paladino added at the time. Her campaign did not make her available for comment about her apparent election.
Paladino will succeed current Councilmember Paul Vallone, Jr. who is term-limited. The 19th Council District covers the northeast Queens neighborhoods of College Point, Whitestone, Malba, Bayside, Douglaston, and North Flushing. She got her start in politics in 2018 after a video of her shouting at Mayor Bill de Blasio went viral. Her campaign was sharply criticized for attracting support from the Proud Boys and neo-Nazis. Last year, Paladino generated more criticism when she led a maskless “COVID conga line” at a GOP event.
Hornack declined to comment on Paladino’s past actions.
Paladino’s win expands the number of Republican members in the council and adds to the dominant female majority in the incoming 51-member body. Paladino joins fellow Republicans Inna Vernikov of Brooklyn’s 48th Council District in Brooklyn, Joanna Ariola of the 32nd Council District in Queens, as well as David Carr of the 50th Council District and Joseph Borelli of the 51st — both on Staten Island.
“It’s a nice comeback for the party,” Hornak said.
Paladino’s win comes a day after Republican Brian Fox lost his bid for the 43rd Council District seat to the incumbent, Justin Brannan, who is among several candidates vying to become council speaker.