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At his congressional campaign kickoff today, Queens Republican Councilman Dan Halloran made clear that he wants his campaign for an open northeast Queens seat to be a referendum on President Barack Obama. Repeatedly, Halloran said he would focus on three themes: high gas prices, Israel policy and 8 percent unemployment.

And Halloran made clear, without saying it directly, that he does not want the campaign to between about his personal controversies? in particular, his pagan religious beliefs, which attracted considerable attention during Halloran's 2009 Council run.

"It's time to talk about our values in our community, and remember that God is part of the equation, however we see it," Halloran said. "This race will not be distracted by non-issues, at any time. We will stick to the message, we will stick to the things that the people want addressed in Washington."

It was fitting that the kickoff was held at Bowne Park in Flushing, where, as Halloran noted, in 1657 several Quakers signed the Flushing Remonstrance, a document calling for religious freedom. It was widely viewed as a precursor to the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights, which Halloran - an attorney by trade and Libertarian by persuasion ? has memorized word for word.

The outspoken councilman's message seemed ripped from the playbook of Queens/Brooklyn Congressman Bob Turner, who won a special election last year in a similarly heavily Democratic district by focusing on Israeli policy and pocketbook issues. His most highly critical comments of the Obama administration concerned its policies towards Iran. At the same time, Halloran also offered an olive branch towards ethnic unity in the diverse neighborhood, saying that people in the northeast Queens district, regardless of their backgrounds, face the problems of high gas prices, unemployment and Israeli policy.

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