2008-11-12 / Political Page

Dem Senate Takeover Stalls; Absentee Ballots To Decide Padavan/Gennaro Race


Padavan (l.) was ahead of Gennaro (r.) by 723 votes in the unofficial count taken when voting ended last Tuesday night. Padavan (l.) was ahead of Gennaro (r.) by 723 votes in the unofficial count taken when voting ended last Tuesday night. The confusion over whether Democrats or Republicans will be the majority party in the state senate in January continued yesterday with no indication how the thorny issue would be resolved.

Meanwhile, a court-ordered, hand- count of emergency, military, absentee and affidavit ballots cast in the race between Republican incumbent Frank Padavan and his challenger, City Councilmember James Gennaro, will start at the Board of Elections today.

Padavan (R- C, Bellerose) was ahead of Gennaro (D- Fresh Meadows) by 723 votes in the unofficial count taken when voting ended last Tuesday night. The ballot count, when concluded, will determine the winner.

Padavan credited his victory over Gennaro to his long-term supporters in the Northeast Queens district.

"My supporters came out strongly for me, which I take as recognition for all the good work we've done for the district over the years," he said.

If Padavan is the ultimate winner, it will be the only bright spot for Queens Republicans to come out of the 2008 elections. President-elect Barack Obama scored an impressive and historic victory over GOP candidate John McCain to become the first African- American to be elected president in our nation's history.

While the Padavan/Gennaro contest remains to be decided, Democratic challenger City Councilmember Joseph Addabbo Jr. soundly defeated incumbent Senator Serphin Maltese in the other Queens senate race that had a bearing on which party would win control of the senate.

Both Padavan and Maltese were endorsed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has been strongly supportive of the Republicanled senate.

Along with Addabbo's victory in the district stretching from Glendale to Howard Beach, the outcome of all other senate races throughout the state gave the Democrats a two-seat edge, 32 to 30, even counting Padavan as an unofficial winner.

Queens Democrats also won all the congressional state senate and Assembly races on the ballot, making both those delegations all Democrat except for the Padavan seat yet to be decided.

The Democrats' achievement in the senate races, which appeared to give them senate control for the first time in 40 years, was put in doubt a couple of days after Election Day when four Democratic senators said they were considering swinging to vote with the Republicans and, once again, give them majority control over that body.

However, since that time, two of the Democratic defectors, Senators Ruben Diaz Sr. of The Bronx and Hiram Monserrate, formerly Corona's city councilmember, decided to return to the Democratic fold.

That left Senators Pedro Espada Jr. of The Bronx and Carl Kruger of Brooklyn as possible malcontents. But all four said they would not support Senator Malcolm Smith of Jamaica as Majority Leader. Smith has been serving as Democratic Majority Leader and was the presumed favorite to move up to Majority Leader if the Democrats won a majority in the elections, as they did.

Thus at the moment, it is not

clear what Kruger and Espada plan to

do in January, when the 62 senators meet to organize that body.

Obviously the Republicans and their present Majority Leader Senator Dean Skelos of Rockville Center, hope the pair will shift to their side.

Just as obviously, the Democrats hope Espada and Kruger see the light and vote with the Democratic caucus.

Two Queens senators, George Onorato and newly-elected Addabbo, have special reasons for wishing the Democrats gain majority control.

Onorato has been the Astoria representative in the senate for almost 26 years, every one of them as part of the minority party.

"We won it fair and square, and I would like to be part of the majority to pass some bills and laws I never had a chance to get enacted," Onorato (D- Astoria) said.

For Addabbo, who's been a councilmember for the past seven years, and will be entering as a freshman senator, said simply, "I want to join with my fellow Democrats and pass a Democratic agenda that will bring benefits to people in my district and the rest of Queens."

Onorato said his re-election last Tuesday was "one of the happiest days of my life" because he was looking forward to becoming one of the members of the majority party, "and restoring democracy to the senate".

Describing life in the minority in a Republican-controlled senate, Onorato said, "They always had gag rules in place and kept all the Democratic bills locked up in committee," so the bills never had a chance of getting passed. "They got the steak and left us the stale bread," was how he described it.

Noting that he and fellow Democrats were "happy because it was a bigger victory than we anticipated". Onorato said becoming the majority party would mean committee chairmanships and bringing greater benefits back to constituents, among other things.

Addabbo said his was a "person-toperson victory." Maltese, he said, had much more money for his campaign, which gave him the advantage of television and other advertising.

"My only way of competing against that kind of a race was with my personal energy, campaigning door-to-door and at train stops and civic meetings," he explained.

Another important reason for Addabbo's win, according to Michael Reich, Queens Democratic organization executive secretary and director of the Addabbo and Gennaro campaigns, was the continuing power of the Addabbo name.

Addabbo's father, late Congressman Joseph Addabbo Sr., represented the Ozone Park- Richmond Hill- Howard Beach area for many years.

"Without a doubt, his dad's long, distinguished service in that area was a major factor in young Joe's victory," Reich said.

Commenting on the Gennaro/Padavan contest, Reich said if Gennaro eventually is determined the winner over Padavan, for Reich, it would be "the culmination of a 22-year effort, beginning in 1986 when he became the party's executive secretary, to defeat Padavan and make the Republicans extinct in Queens".

Still speaking of Padavan, who has served in the state senate for almost four decades, Reich stated, "No matter what, we gave him the scare of his life and his days are still numbered. Eventually, Gennaro will be the senator in the Northeast Queens district and Padavan will be retired."

Giving the Queens Republican Party's reaction to the elections, Vince Tabone, GOP Queens vice chairman, said, "We were swamped. McCain didn't campaign at all in New York and Obama pulled out every vote he possibly could. Apparently, his message of change had more resonance than we thought."

Regarding Maltese's loss, Tabone said, "The Hispanics didn't vote for him, and they abandoned our candidates completely because they responded to Obama's tax cut proposal, which benefits the working poor and middle class."

As for the future, Tabone said, it would be good for the party's rebuilding effort if former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani would run for governor in 2010. "He's our best hope for a comeback." Tabone continued, "For the time being, the race remains extremely close and it's critical that we respect the thousands of voters whose voices and ballots still have to be counted."

Efforts to reach Maltese, Gennaro and Queens GOP Chairman Phil Ragusa were unsuccessful.

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