2007-07-25 / Political Page

Queens Main Stage For State Senate Control Battle In 2008

The momentous battle for control of the state senate in next year's elections could fall squarely on Queens, where four of the borough's six senators are likely to face stiff opposition as they seek re-election.

The scenario is developing, in part because the Republicans, who presently hold a slim majority, last week declared that they will go on the offensive next year against two Queens Democratic incumbent senators, John Sabini and Toby Ann Stavisky, as part of their effort to retain or broaden their control of the senate.

As for the Democrats, rest assured that the party will do everything necessary to deliver victories for Sabini and Stavisky. Given the challenge from the Republicans, the Democrats would be fools not to retaliate by mounting strong opposition against GOP incumbent Senators Frank Padavan and Serphin Maltese.

That would leave the borough's two remaining senators, Minority Leader Malcolm Smith (D- Jamaica) and George Onorato (D- Astoria) without re-election opposition.

Queens Democratic Party leaders for a long time have made no secret of their desire to depose Padavan, who has held his Northeast Queens seat for 34 consecutive years. They're failed in several recent attempts, but in view of the gains the Dems made in last year's elections, whittling the Republican majority from 33 to 29, the stage is set for them to make an all-out assault on Padavan next year.

Not only would Maltese's and Padavan's defeat fulfill a longheld Dem ambition, it also would dovetail with Governor Eliot Spitzer's announced objective of dethroning Majority Leader Joseph Bruno.

Last but not least, next year's presidential election will motivate both sides to pull out all the stops, especially if there's a top-of-theticket battle between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Rudy Giuliani.

Putting all of these considerations aside, however, Sabini and Stavisky and Padavan

and Maltese will, if challenged, be very difficult

to defeat.

Sabini and Stavisky represent heavily Democratic

districts. Rousing their

constituents to get to

the polls on Election

Day will not take too

much of an effort for the

candidates and Democratic

leaders, especially in a presidential

election year.

As for Padavan and Maltese, each has been able to win re-election despite facing high numbers of registered Democrats. Incumbents have a built-in advantage of high voter recognition to make them winners.

In announcing their plans last week to go on the offensive in next year's elections in their effort to retain control of the senate, state Republican Party leaders announced they would challenge 10 Democratic incumbents, including Stavisky and Sabini.

They also announced that they had nearly $2.6 million on hand to wage the battle, as opposed to the $626,000 senate Democratic leaders have reportedly banked.

Meanwhile, both party organizations will have new leaders directing election activities next year. The Democrats chose Congressmember Joseph Crowley as their leader following the death of Thomas Manton. Republicans picked Philip Ragusa as their new leader when Maltese resigned as county leader recently.

At the outset, Ragusa announced in his plans to run the organization he included conducting a "candidates school" to try to flush out any latent GOP candidate talent in the borough. Perhaps the novel approach he took will provide some new challengers next year.

HEVESI RETALIATES: Former State Comptroller Alan Hevesi, stung by charges made by his successor, Thomas DiNapoli, that Hevesi and members of his staff "engaged in unethical, irresponsible and possibly criminal activity", responded last week that DiNapoli had shown "a lack of professionalism and personal weakness" for allegedly participating in a smear campaign against him.

Hevesi also accused state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo of leaking confidential information about a continuing investigation into his management of the comptroller's office.

The verbal brickbats flying back and forth were an outgrowth of a pending investigation of Hevesi's tenure as state comptroller by Cuomo and Albany District Attorney David Soares.

Specifically, the conflict was ignited by DiNapoli's statement that his staff had discovered that certain records pertinent to the Hevesi probe were missing.

Hevesi, who was succeeded by DiNapoli after he resigned the state comptroller post, had not been heard from since the Soares- Cuomo probe began, but spoke out vociferously after DiNapoli made his charges.

LANCMAN LAW SPARKS MTA ACTION: Following passage of Assemblymember Rory Lancman's bill, which protects individuals who report potential terrorist or other criminal acts, the MTA announced renewal of its "If You See Something, Say Something" campaign. Lancman (D- Flushing) applauded the action, saying the campaign "plays a vital role in New York's security."

ACKERMAN BLASTS BUSH ON IRAQ OIL PLAN: Blasting the Bush presidential administration for pushing legislation in Baghdad that would give western oil companies considerable control over Iraqi oil, Congressmember Gary Ackerman (D- Bayside) declared. "We can't insist on first dibs [at the oil contracts]. People will say that's why we went there. It should be an open ballgame."

LIU'S LARGE WAR CHEST: City Councilmember John Liu (D- Flushing) a relatively new face in city politics, hasn't said what other office he might be interested in after the term limits law boots him out of this present job in 2009, but he's raising more money than any of his colleagues at the present moment.

At last count, Liu had raised $1.6 million, more than Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who's eyeing a mayoral race, ($1.4 million), or Liu's Queens colleagues, David Weprin ($1.29 million) or Melinda Katz ($1.32 million), both of whom are planning to run for city comptroller.

Taiwan- born Liu, 40, is in his second term as the first Asian- American elected to the council said its' too soon to be thinking of his next move in his political career, but wants to be ready for it when he does make a decision, so he's going to raise as much money as he can.

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