2008-10-29 / Political Page

Maltese, Addabbo Battle Down To The Wire In Senate Race

BY JOHN TOSCANO

Serphin Maltese Serphin Maltese State Senator Serphin Maltese (R- C, Middle Village) and Councilmember Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D- Ozone Park/Howard Beach), who have been waging a battle royal for the senate seat held by Maltese, closed out their campaigns on a high note and now await the verdict of the electorate next Tuesday.

Addabbo, who had already been endorsed by Governor David Paterson, received another major boost as U.S. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton announced her support for him also.

Almost simultaneously, Maltese's campaign received a major boost as he announced a major jobs and economic development project in Ozone Park, Addabbo's bailiwick.

The announcement was the long awaited selection of a developer to install and operate a casino at Aqueduct Racetrack that will provide millions of dollars of revenue to the state. The project will also construct entertainment and restaurant facilities as well as new retail stores and possibly a hotel. An estimated 2,000 construction and permanent jobs will be created, perhaps providing the most benefit to the community.

Joseph Addabbo Joseph Addabbo Needless to say, there would also be political and election benefits flowing from the Clinton endorsement and the casino project.

Maltese welcomed the agreement on the casino, thanking the community leaders that had participated in many discussions leading to a successful conclusion and the prospect of future revenue for the state and jobs for local workers.

In her endorsement, Clinton stated, "We need Joe Addabbo in Albany to fight for middle class families."

Earlier in the campaign, Maltese was endorsed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his predecessor, Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani walked the district with the candidate and they also visited several senior centers.

During several debates held by various local organizations, Maltese and Addabbo clashed on a number of issues.

At one debate, Maltese maintained that, although he and other Republican lawmakers have been criticized about not getting sufficient funds for schools, in fact, "in the last 10 years, we have increased the educational funding for schools in the city by 97 percent".

Addabbo responded that although New York City may get increases, Nassau and Suffolk get far more, and this must be corrected. The councilmember added that if budget shortfalls reduce the city's education funds, the senate should adopt an "education first" policy to assure adequate school funds will be delivered.

The candidates also clashed on the easy availability of guns in the city, with Addabbo charging the senate and Maltese are soft on gun control. Maltese responded that the state has among the toughest gun laws in the country.

Maltese based his campaign on his 20-year career in the senate. Before being elected he was a founder of the state Conservative Party and then state chairman of the organization. Later in his career he served as the Queens Republican Party chairman.

In a statement during the campaign, Maltese declared, "For twenty years, I have been able to serve the people of Queens and I take pride in many of the accomplishments that I have been able to achieve during my tenure as a state senator.

"I have been able to deliver for education, deliver for health care, for seniors, for veterans, for women and children, and I have taken a tough stand against crime and helped improve the quality of life in Queens."

In addition to playing a part in getting the new casino deal for Aqueduct Racetrack, Maltese and Assemblymember Audrey Pheffer (D- Rockaways) kept the community involved in formulating what form the project would take.

Maltese said he authored 239 Maltese laws, including one which created the St. Albans Veterans Hospital and Nursing Home; the so-called "Vasean's Law", increasing penalties for drunk driving, which was sparked by a fatal DWI case in Kew Gardens Hills and helped to get the funding which saved Wycoff Hospital in Ridgewood many years ago.

Maltese said he also secured funding for many projects in his district, including two recent $500,000 grants for the Queens Borough Public Library to renovate the Ozone Park and Richmond Hill branches, $55 million for new buildings at LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City and grants for renovations at the South Queens Boys & Girls Club, the Greater Ridgewood Youth Council and the Queens Multi Service Center and Forest Park Senior Center.

Maltese raised $1.15 million for his campaign, according to filings with the state Board of Elections, and throughout the campaign he has run election advertisements on a cable TV station.

Addabbo was elected to the City Council almost seven years ago, continuing the legacy of his father, the late Congressman Joseph Addabbo, the longtime representative from Ozone Park.

Recently, when he was endorsed by Senator Hillary Clinton, Addabbo declared, "If elected, I will work tirelessly with her on the issues that matter most to working families: education, health care and job creation. In these tough fiscal times, we need courage, not complacency, which is exactly the work ethic I will bring with me to Albany."

During the campaign, he has addressed those issues and others. When he was endorsed by the New York State Nurses Association, Addabbo announced a three-point program to meet the escalating costs of health care in the state. This included: single source drug coverage and expanding the income threshold to qualify for the Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage program (EPIC).

Addabbo declared: "We need to put health care back into the hands of the doctors and nurses who think first about the patient and second about the bill."

Speaking out on the impact of the mortgage failure and foreclosure crisis in state Senate District 15, where he's challenging Maltese for the seat in Tuesday's election, he stated.

"As the foreclosure crisis spreads, we're seeing a ripple effect as property values plummet and surrounding neighborhoods experience an increase in quality of life issues like graffiti and crime." He called for passage of a bill which would allow a municipality to clean up a foreclosed property and bill the foreclosing bank for the costs involved.

At another point in the campaign, Addabbo blasted Mayor Michael Bloomberg's $12.6 million cut to senior centers and Albany's failure to take action. Another time, after Addabbo had introduced a Fight the Hike initiative calling on the MTA not to increase transit fares, Addabbo and Councilmember John Liu went to MTA headquarters to present more than 2,000 signatures opposing the fare hike and presented them to an MTA board meeting.

Recently, Addabbo was joined by Congressmember Anthony Weiner and city Comptroller William Thompson at a huge rally marking the start of the onemonth countdown to Election Day. Also present were 250 volunteer canvassers from several labor unions supporting Addabbo who later visited more than 3,000 households in the Ridgewood/Glendale/Middle Village area, Maltese's political power base.

The presence of Weiner and Thompson, both announced Democratic candidates for mayor, was an indication of Democratic Party strength being marshalled for Addabbo's final push for an election victory.

Both candidates have indicated that they will wage a furious battle next Tuesday to make sure they get all their supporters out to vote.

Maltese has been endorsed by District Council 37, the 1.1 million member municipal labor union. Implicit in the endorsement is the promise of campaign volunteers to man telephone banks and distribute literature. Similar arrangements were made with other labor union endorsers.

On Addabbo's side, he will receive manpower assistance from Local 32 BJ, the building service union, which sent 200 member volunteers to help with mailings and work in the district. Another union, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) also sent volunteers to distribute Addabbo campaign materials.

On Election Day, some of these same workers will be involved in getting voters to the polls, a very important responsibility.

The success of these Election Day operations will have a major impact on each candidate's chances in an election as close as the Addabbo/Maltese contest.

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