Appeals Court Ruling On Padavan/Gennaro Ballot Recount Tomorrow
Queens Democrats' hopes of winning another state senate seat remained alive last Wednesday when a Queens Supreme Court judge ruled that about 2,000 previously uncounted paper ballots cast on November 4 in the controversial election between Republican state Senator Frank Padavan and City Councilmember James Gennaro, his Democratic challenger, must be counted.
Lawyers for Padavan immediately appealed Judge Kevin Kerrigan's decision to the Appellate Division and that court issued a stay on any recount. A crucial hearing on the matter will be held tomorrow at the court in Brooklyn.
The completed recount of all other votes cast in the Padavan- Gennaro contest had found Padavan the winner by 580 votes. If the more than 2,000 ballots at issue in the court case are ultimately ruled valid by the Appellate Division judges and must be counted, they obviously can make a difference in the final outcome. If the court rules otherwise, of course, it would leave Padavan the winner.
Padavan's presumed victory was included in the statewide count of senate districts, giving the Republicans 30 seats and the Democrats 32, making the Dems the senate majority for the first time in 40 years.
However, three Democrats have threatened to vote with the Republicans, and this has stalled the political battle in Albany, where the situation remains unsettled to this day.
However, if the Appellate Division case swings to the Democrats, and increases their majority to a 33- 29 count, the party would then have a little more wiggle room, but the three renegades would still have to be dealt with.
But getting back to tomorrow's court hearing, the Appeals Court must decide if nearly 1,800 paper ballots initially not counted should be counted. Also in question are some 250 valid ballots otherwise challenged by the GOP.
Arguing the Democrats' case, Party Executive Secretary Michael Reich had contended that both sides doing the recount at the Board of Elections had decided to set the ballots aside temporarily, without ruling on their validity, but now they must be counted. Judge Kerrigan accepted this argument.
However, a Republican state senate campaign committee, in a statement reacting to Kerrigan's decision, refers to the nearly 1,800 ballots as "invalid" and went on to say they shouldn't have been reintroduced months after the election.
Not only would that be unprecedented, the statement says, but it would also "threaten to dilute the power of every vote that was legally cast" in the election.
As for the other some 250 paper ballots, Reich argued that these were wrongly invalidated at polling places and thus denied the voters' right to vote and should be recorded as the ballots indicate.
Getting back to the Democrats' efforts to find a way to claim the majority they won on November 4, it seems in the past week, state Senate Minority Leader Malcolm Smith (D- Jamaica) made no headway in lining up the votes he needs by early January to be voted in as majority leader.
Governor David Paterson appears ready to renew his efforts to overcome the problem presented by the renegade trio, but this seems to require help from the Republicans to provide votes for Smith or any other Democrat. Smith has already disavowed a deal that he made with the three rebels, which involved giving them powerful committee posts and a share in the power structure. Smith called off the deal after other members of his delegation threatened to abandon him, which raises the question: what can he possibly offer Republicans to buy their votes, and would he be able to maintain his Democratic support if he did?
Smith ran into a barrage of criticism from some fellow Democrats for his failed efforts so far, but we can't see any other way out for him or any other Democratic senator who might throw his hat in the ring for the majority leader's post. No matter who does the negotiating with the terrible trio, if they refuse to budge if the Democrats refuse to meet their demands they'll just walk over to the Republican side and make the best deal they can with GOP Majority Leader Dean Skelos.
One way out for the Democrats might be for Paterson to offer them funding grants, patronage jobs or something along those lines that might be acceptable in place of committee chairmanships.
GOV HAS PLATE FULL OF HEADACHES: The governor really has enough problems without having to be called in to try to broker a deal to get the senate majority leadership for the Democrats. While it's true it will help him in the long run to have the senate in his pocket as well as the Assembly, right now he's got a tremendous budget deficit to deal with as well as picking a U.S. Senate replacement for Hillary Rodham Clinton.
This chore was never going to be a slam dunk, given the huge field that he will have to choose from. The group was made up basically of elected officials from all over the state and included a mix of men and women and ethnic backgrounds.
As difficult as it was to make a choice that would have been fairly easy to deal with politically and otherwise; Paterson's task has become immeasurably more difficult since Caroline Kennedy added her resume to the mixture.
Ironically, the daughter of the late President John F. Kennedy doesn't stand head and shoulders above the elected officials on the long list. In fact, Kennedy doesn't begin to threaten any of these because she has none of the legislative experience that so many on the list would bring to their quest for a senate seat.
Kennedy brings only a name and a family background that immediately captures the public's fancy, as well as the media's attention. At this point, these attributes aren't really needed because there is no election to be held. The choice is Governor Paterson's alone. We would urge him to make his selection purely on merit, and we don't think Kennedy qualifies for this important position using that standard.
MAYOR DENOUNCES SUCUZHANAY KILLING: Following the death of Ecuadoran immigrant Jose Sucuzhanay, who was beaten brutally in a senseless attack 10 days ago and died over the weekend, Mayor Michael Bloomberg denounced the incident as "a pointless and gutless crime".
Speaking at a Sunday service in Canarsie, Brooklyn, the mayor stated, "Race relations in this city are a lot better than they have been in many, many decades. Having said that, unfortunately, this atmosphere is occasionally shattered by dangerous acts of bigotry that undermine our fight to live in peace and security.
"That is what happened last Sunday, a week ago. But he added, "Our city, our administration, and you and I together have absolutely no tolerance for any kind of hate crime."
In her comments on Sucuzhanay's murder, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn declared, "These cowardly acts are outrageous and will not be tolerated. This crime is not just an attack against one person, or one community, but an unconscionable act on all New Yorkers. We will continue to stand against all crimes of hate."
SUDDEN RESIGNATION: The sudden resignation last week of Edwin Mendez- Santiago as commissioner of the city Department for the Aging comes at a time when much hostility is being directed at the agency because of major changes in senior services being proposed by the administration. However, there has not been any indication that Mendez-Santiago held any different view than those of the mayor regarding the changes. He had been in his post for the past seven years.
MALONEY HAILS HUMAN TRAFFICKING VICTIMS PROTECTIONS: "The House and Senate have again shown our commitment to ending this form of modern day slavery by passing this important legislation," Congressmember Carolyn Maloney commented last week after both houses of Congress increased penalties for human traffickers and expanded protections against human trafficking victims and their families. Maloney (D- Queens/Manhattan), who heads the Congressional Human Trafficking Caucus, said the reauthorization of the act calls for developing a new model state level law focusing on a more comprehensive approach to investigating and prosecuting human trafficking and increases assistance for all victims, including U.S. citizens.
SEEKING MONSERRATE'S SEAT: Three candidates, Carlos Fabara, Julissa Ferraras and Francisco Moya, have emerged to run in the February special election to succeed Councilmember Hiram Monserrate and serve out the final year in his term.
Fabara, 54, sent us an extensive resume, but as yet we have not received any literature or information from Moya or Ferraras.
Fabara, who holds a degree from York College, says he has volunteered in several campaigns including that of Rudy Giuliani for mayor, Monserrate and most recently Barack Obama. To learn first hand what a councilmember does, he interned at Monserrate's district office on Junction Boulevard and attended council sessions and community board meetings.
Fabara has held jobs as a radio news reporter for Free Speech Radio News and WBAI and as a television producer at Channel 41. Presently, he hosts Queens TalkRadio.com. He plans to use his Web site, carlosfabara.com, extensively in his campaign. If elected, he plans to establish a "Constituent Council" in which registered voters in Council District 21 can participate in and vote on bills before the city council. He says he will then vote the same way as the majority of those voters.