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
"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
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
"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
"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
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
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
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."