Thursday, May 13, 2010

Challenger to Hevesi Quits Assembly Race

By Conor Greene

Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi’s bid for re-election got much easier last week with the announcement that one of his Democratic challengers has abruptly ended her campaign.

Lilianna Zulunova, a 27-year-old adjunct professor at LaGuardia Community College, said in a statement that she is prematurely ending her bid to unseat Hevesi (D-Forest Hills) in the 28th Assembly district due to her May 3 marriage.

When announcing her campaign earlier this year, Zulunova touted prior experience running city Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley’s volunteer effort, working on former Senator John Sabini’s re-election campaigns and running Albert Cohen’s City Council bid last year. A native of Uzbekistan whose family emigrated when she was nine years old, Zulunova had made garnering support from central Queen's large Bukharian Jewish community a main focus of her campaign.

“As some of you know, on May 3 I got married to Rabbi Emanuel Yelizarov. This is an exciting time for my family and me,” said Zulunova in a statement released last Thursday. “It’s with this in mind that I have decided to put my family first and end my campaign. My obligations as a wife, and eventually as a mother, give me certainty that this is the right decision for me at this time.

When she announced her intentions to run for the Assembly earlier this year, Zulunova was critical of Hevesi due to his family’s political connections. “My opponent has had everything handed to him on a silver platter,” she wrote in a February e-mail to supporters. “He’s never had to work for anything in his life. Well, he’s going to have to work this summer.”

She added, “While my opponent has rubbed elbows with Albany elites and padded his campaign coffers with pension fund monies, I helped seniors get tax exemptions. I helped families stay in their homes and helped immigrants get the services they need to succeed as Americans.”

Zulunova vowed to stay involved in local issues moving forward, despite abandoning her campaign. “I still have a passion for public service. I still yearn to serve my neighbors and my community. And I will devote my time to giving back to Queens and the neighborhoods that have given me so much,” she said.

Hevesi was first elected through a special election in 2005 after former Assemblyman Michael Cohen resigned from office. Since then, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has launched an investigation into corruption involving the state pension fund during the time Andrew's father, Alan Hevesi, was state Comptroller. Former Liberal Party chairman Raymond Harding has admitted to ensuring that the Assembly seat became vacant in exchange for $800,000 in illegal payments.

Andrew Hevesi, who Cuomo has said was unaware of the political maneuvering that took place on his behalf, will still have at least one Democratic challenger to contend with. Joe Fox, an attorney who has lived in Forest Hills for 30 years, announced his intention to run last month.

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