District: Democrats Prepare To Challenge
Albert Baldeo, a
democratic candidate for Queens 15th State Senate District, speaks
with locals near his Liberty Avenue campaign headquarters.
It’s 2006 all over again.
A sample of local and national headlines from two years ago
reveals concerns about global warming, economists discussing the
effects of a national housing bubble and a bald-white man moving
out of the governor’s mansion in Albany.
Heard anything similar recently?
Perhaps the headlines of 2008 seem like a case of déjà vu, but the
South-Queens residents may remember another headline from 2006.
Democrat Albert Baldeo, an Ozone Park lawyer, ran an unlikely
campaign against long-standing incumbent State Senator Serphin
Maltese (R-Glendale) for Queens’ 15th State Senate District.
Baldeo is once again making headlines as he gears up for a 2008
rematch against Maltese, but this time he has company. Although he
hasn’t made it “official,” Councilman Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard
Beach) isn’t shy about stating what many have been speculating –
he’s running too.
“The formal announcement will be next month,” he said.
South-Queens Democrats heading to the primary ballots again later
this year can expect to face another familiar situation – choosing
between a grassroots political upstart promising change and an
experienced legislator with a firm grounding in the state’s
political establishment, carrying the torch of a political
A Surprising Challenger
Baldeo stunned political spectators in 2006 when he came within
800 votes, one percentage point, in a race many had already
written off in favor of Maltese.
He said that after 18 years of Maltese’s running uncontested, many
voters in the district wanted a new choice.
“Nobody thought he could be beaten,” Baldeo said. Registered
democrats outnumber republicans two to one. It’s no longer the
Archie Bunker district it once was. “The demographics have changed
considerably. This is one of the most diverse areas in Queens.”
Baldeo, a former prosecutor and magistrate from Guyana, is
currently an immigration lawyer operating out of his Liberty
Avenue law office in Ozone Park.
Despite losses in the 2006 state senate contest and a 2005 city
council election, he has continued to devote himself to public
service through pro bono work and by advocating community issues.
He has petitioned to Mayor Mike Bloomberg to improve safety on
school buses, lead a lawsuit to improve living conditions for the
residents of the Rochdale Village co-ops in Jamaica and formed a
fund with his brother, Dr. Philip Baldeo, to assist the victims of
Hurricane Katrina, the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and the 9/11
terrorist attacks, he said.
Baldeo is advocating reducing property taxes for working class
people, improving public safety, reducing noise and air pollution
and saving family homes from foreclosure if he is elected.
He said he would also refuse donations from special interest
groups. “My campaign is not funded by special interests,
lobbyists, political action groups or rogue unions. I will not be
a puppet to anyone,” Baldeo said.
Baldeo said his ethnic background and history of representing
minority groups and immigrants will give him an edge in the
“I am the best candidate to represent that diversity and the only
candidate who resonates with the voters’ need for change,” he
He’s confident he’ll get to face Maltese again in 2008.
“I won [the democratic nomination] in 2006 and I intend to win
Baldeo has attributed his slim loss in 2006 to a swing in
independent voters towards Maltese and lack of support from
Democratic Party leaders.
His volatile relationship with the state’s democratic
establishment has been a thorny issue for the Queens lawyer. Their
silence, Addabbo’s imminent entry into the race and rumors of
backroom deals, caused Baldeo to lose his composure, throwing out
wild accusations against the councilman and the party.
“There’s no entitlement to the nomination. I hoped the democratic
leaders would stand behind my candidacy,” he said. “There’s been
too much back biting and cronyism. Now is not the time for
“Addabbo is running because he’s term limited, he needs a job,”
He later went on to say that Maltese and Addabbo were actually
“A lot of people see this as an effort to ensure Maltese keeps his
seat. He’s [Addabbo] seen as a party pooper.”
Addabbo wasn’t fazed by the accusations.
“I respect Senator Maltese. That doesn’t mean I don’t think I can
do a better job,” Addabbo said. “We’re going to keep positive.
That attitude will carry me through to the general election.”
Ready For A Challenge
Addabbo has Queens politics in his blood. He is a lifelong
resident of Queens and the son of the Congressman Joseph P.
Addabbo Sr., who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from
1961 to 1986.
He was elected to represent the 32nd Council District of Queens in
2001 and will wrap up eight years on the council in 2009, the
maximum term that can be served. He is the chair of the council’s
Civil Service and Labor Committee.
Addabbo said he has been fighting to improve the quality of life
for his constituents. He said he is proposing a veteran’s tax
benefit that would allow Cold War veterans to seek the same
benefits as veterans of conventional wars. He created legislation
that allowed donors to choose which City park their money would be
invested in. Addabbo is also fighting current proposals to
consolidate senior centers throughout the city.
Addabbo said he wants to bring these and other issues to Albany.
“I want to keep families from having to leave Queens, improve
public safety and education and create new jobs,” he said. “This
campaign will be issue driven when I announce in May.”
Despite that proclamation, Addabbo was short on details.
“Right now I’m just talking to people. This will be a campaign
driven by the voice of the people.”
Addabbo insists his experience will give him the edge in the
election. “There’s a lot of difference between us, but my
credibility and experience gives me a head start. I’m going to
demonstrate that my values, background and work ethic are going to
be very beneficial to residents of the district,” he said.
Baldeo has accused Addabbo of not representing district’s large
immigrant community, but Addabbo says he wants to include
“It’s not just about dealing with the new residents; it’s about
dealing with everyone. Seniors have issues, working families have
issues – you need to address all of them.”
Despite the accusations and some inter-party drama, both Baldeo
and Addabbo are promising to give Maltese a race to
Yes, it’s 2006 all over again. But with sparks already flying and
tensions rising on just the democratic side, this race has enough
new details to warrant a second look.