2008-10-29 / Political Page

Padavan-Gennaro Outcome Will Affect Albany Power Balance

BY JOHN TOSCANO

Frank Padavan Frank Padavan Facing one of his toughest challenges in his 36 years as Northeast Queens' representative in the state senate, Frank Padavan has been leaning heavily on his legislative and community services records to see him through to victory in next Tuesday's 11th senate district election.

Opposing the Bellerose lawmaker will be City Councilmember James Gennaro of Jamaica Estates, who is countering Padavan's achievements with his own that have been accumulating over his past seven years in the council. Gennaro is also a former Queens College professor and chairs the council Environmental Protection Committee.

Padavan is running as the Republican- Independent-Conservative candidate; Gennaro will be on the Democratic and Working Families Party lines.

The contest is one of two in Queens that will have an impact on the power alignment in the Albany legislature. Republicans have been the majority party in the upper house of the legislature for about 40 years, but their majority edge is down to two members and the Padavan-vs-Gennaro election outcome could affect the future balance of the senate. The other Queens election that might have a similar impact on the state senate is the one between Senator Serphin Maltese and Councilmember Joseph Addabbo Jr. in the western portion of the borough.

James Gennaro James Gennaro Gennaro charged in announcing his candidacy that the Republican senate majority has "historically failed to serve Queens' working families, especially in the areas of fiscal fairness and sufficient education and transit".

Among the bills enacted that were sponsored by Padavan was one increasing criminal penalties for individuals who engage in human and sex trafficking; another, sponsored by Mark Weprin in the Assembly, expanded Access-A-Ride bus transportation service for seniors and the disabled between Queens and Nassau Counties without bus changes and a third would provide incentives for New York City residents and businesses to install and use solar power on their property.

Gennaro stated that since becoming chair of the Environmental Protection Committee, he had become recognized as the most prolific author of "green" legislation in the city's history. He previously taught environmental policy at the university level.

In the council, he authored most of the city's "progressive environmental" bills, including the nationally acclaimed NYC Climate Protection Act, which will reduce the city's greenhouse gas emissions and other harmful pollution by 30 percent.

Gennaro said he had also negotiated the land acquisitions that will protect the city's upstate drinking water supply, made neighborhoods quieter by rewriting the city's noise code, reduced flooding in some neighborhoods with comprehensive storm water management plans, preserved the character of many neighborhoods by passing down zoning legislation and is involved in efforts to reduce energy costs by promoting alternative energy sources such as wind, solar and biofuels use.

"I also successfully fought to restore our 7 percent property tax cut and all classroom funding in the latest city budget, saved the Citywide Meals-On-Wheels program with a $1.7 million allocation and am currently fighting to lower our water rates and stop Mayor Bloomberg from cutting senior services by restructuring the Department for the Aging," Gennaro continued.

Gennaro led a major battle against the mayor's two increases in water and sewer taxes, charging the revenues were being diverted into the city's general fund, but the fight was unsuccessful.

"This week I voted against Mayor Bloomberg's plan to extend term limits and am running to bring fiscal fairness and strong leadership to the 11th state senate district in Northeast Queens, where Frank Padavan has been faithfully voting with the Senate Republican majority to advance suburban and upstate interests and, thereby, working against the interests of his constituents for 36 years," he added.

The mayor, no friend of senate Democrats, has also endorsed Padavan for re-election. High ranking Democrats— Governor David Paterson and New York Senators Charles Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton—have in turn endorsed Gennaro. Both candidates have been endorsed by major environmental organizations.

However, Gennaro made much of several endorsements from women's rights advocacy groups, hoping he can benefit from getting the women's vote.

The organizations were NARAL Pro- Choice New York, Planned Parenthood of NYC Action Fund and New York Choice Pac.

NARAL President Kelli Conlin stated, "[Gennaro's] opponent, incumbent Frank Padavan, has among the worst records in our state when it comes to reproductive rights. Padavan has consistently voted against women's health care and is extremely out of touch with New York's pro-choice values."

Padavan countered with an endorsement he received from Citizen's Union which stated that he has made a reputation for himself as having a strong commitment to social services, including education and health care.

The women's rights groups praised Gennaro "for his record of commitment to women's issues through legislation, funding and activism, as well as his pledge to continue such work in the state senate".

Gennaro, citing an "overwhelming wave of new Democrats eager for change" who are newly registered in the 11th senate district, predicted, "We're going to ride that wave to victory in November."

His enthusiasm was boosted by state Board of Elections records showing that from January to August 4,083 persons registered in the 11th SD as Democrats and 711 as Republicans. This brought the district's totals to 88,494 Democrats and 33,123 Republicans.

While the overwhelming number of Democrats would ordinarily help a Democratic candidate, it should be pointed out that Padavan's district has always had far more Democrats than Republicans. Padavan, as the underdog Republican candidate, has always managed to win elections. He has, in fact, a list of 540 supporters listed as "Democrats for Padavan".

This pattern of voting could change this year if Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is far ahead of his rival, Republican John McCain, and there could be a surge of Obama voters in the borough. Whether Obama's coattails are long enough and strong enough to make a difference from past elections remains to be seen.

The 11th senate district includes Bayside, Bellerose, College Point, Douglaston, Floral Park, Flushing, Hollis, Holliswood, Jamaica Estates, Glen Oaks, Jamaica Hill, Linden Hill, Little Neck, Murray Hill, Oakland Gardens, Queens Village and Whitestone.

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