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State Sen. Tony Avella to challenge de Blasio for NYC mayor

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio shakes

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio shakes hands with City Council member Ritchie Torres at New Tabernacle Baptist Church in The Bronx on Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016. Credit: Steven Sunshine

Mayor Bill de Blasio at a Bronx campaign stop on Sunday framed his push for income equality in the context of a Donald Trump presidency, telling a church congregation he would fight federal policies that threaten Muslim, undocumented and other groups of New Yorkers.

“We treat others as we wish they would treat us, and we did not hear that rhetoric in our nation this year,” the Democratic mayor said at New Tabernacle Baptist Church, adding, “We actually have a chance to show our country how it works, to be a beacon, to be a reminder: This is supposed to be a country for everyone, and we are always a city for everyone.”

De Blasio’s re-election campaign rolled out endorsements from City Council members Ydanis Rodriguez (D-Manhattan) and Ritchie Torres (D-Bronx), among others, as state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Queens) announced in Queens that he would run against de Blasio in the Democratic primary.

Avella kicked off his bid at a Holiday Inn Express in Maspeth where he said de Blasio’s administration has housed homeless men without input from surrounding community members.

“It is time to put people and neighborhoods first in this city and politics last,” said Avella, a member of the Independent Democratic Conference that includes Republican state senators. The former city councilman ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2009.

In the West Farms section of the Bronx, Rodriguez and Torres said they’re backing de Blasio for a second term because he has a record of initiatives benefiting the working class, including universal prekindergarten, and housing and infrastructure investments.

“What we should expect from our elected officials is not perfection, what we should expect is progress,” Torres said. “And under the leadership of Mayor de Blasio, we have seen progress.”

Torres said de Blasio and his aides should be presumed innocent until proven guilty in federal and state probes into the mayor’s campaign and nonprofit fundraising. The New York Times has reported that separate grand juries are hearing testimony on the role of the mayor’s inner circle.

“I’m judging the mayor on his own merits. ... What is his substantive record? Is the city better off than it was three years ago? By every objective measure, the answer is yes,” Torres said.

Avella referenced the investigations in his campaign launch.

“It is time to eliminate the corruption at City Hall where campaign consultants, lobbyists sit at the table,” he said.

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