Democrat critical of effort against Maltese
Challenger says primary opponent a decoy for GOP Senate incumbent
By SHARONA COUTTS, OLGA PIERCE and BEN PROTESS, Special to the Times Union
First published: Saturday, April 12, 2008

NEW YORK -- When City Councilman Joseph Addabbo Jr. decided to run for state Senate last year, first he told his wife.

Then he went to the man he is supposedly looking to defeat, nine-term Republican incumbent Serphin Maltese.

"To lose to you would be an honor," Maltese replied, according to Addabbo, son of a former congressman and preferred candidate of the Queens Democratic Party.

Addabbo and Maltese are candid about their respect for one another.

"To be honest, I like him, you know, and his wife, Dawn," Maltese said in a recent interview.

That coziness, though, has Democrat Albert Baldeo crying foul.

Baldeo, who came within 800 votes of defeating Maltese in 2006 and is running again this year, said Addabbo's candidacy could threaten what should be an easy Democratic victory. With Democrats just two seats away from winning control of the Senate for the first time since 1965, Maltese's district, where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1, is a prime target.

"He's clearly a decoy," Baldeo said about his primary opponent. "He's running to dilute the Democratic votes, split the party. He's not very serious about going to Albany."

Baldeo maintains his outsider status threatens the decades-long nonaggression pact between the Republican and Democratic parties in Queens, which is why his party is supporting Addabbo after failing to back any Maltese rival since 1996.

"Maltese goes way back with the Queens Democratic Party," Baldeo said. "It's like a privilege club. That's not what democracy is supposed to be about."

On the contrary, Maltese said, working well with the opposing party is essential to getting bills through the Senate.

"I understand politics," Maltese said. "In order to work for your constituents, you have to work with colleagues."

Addabbo dismissed Baldeo's claim that he is not a serious candidate.

"I firmly believe I will win in the primary and the general" election, he said. "There is no reason for me to run other than to win."

The executive secretary of the Queens Democratic organization, Michael Reich, confirmed Addabbo is the party's preferred candidate, though it will not formally endorse anyone until designation meetings in May. Reich dismissed Baldeo's argument that his near-victory in the last election makes him the strongest candidate.

"The reality is he lost, he didn't win," Reich said.

The Democrats are willing to support Addabbo in a dollar-for-dollar campaign against Maltese, who has said the Republicans are ready to make this a $1 million campaign.

Meanwhile, Baldeo, an immigration lawyer from Guyana, has financed his own campaigns, racking up $300,000 in debt.

But Addabbo's fundraising triumphs also have been a source of controversy.

In each of his three campaigns for City Council, Addabbo violated New York City Campaign Finance Board rules, including in 2003 when he accepted unauthorized corporate donations and over-the-limit contributions from unions. Addabbo said he and his staff had no knowledge of any violations. "I sleep easy at night knowing I follow the rules," he said.

A letter from the finance board in late 2004, however, includes both detailed charges and responses from Addabbo's campaign committee.

The Democratic feud has delighted Maltese, who sees even greater potential for a split Democratic vote if Baldeo loses the endorsement and runs as a third party candidate.

"They'll both have a merry old fight of it and when they both emerge bloodied and somewhat bowed, I'll take care of whatever's left of them."


  AlbertBaldeo.Com 2005