Joseph Addabbo Jr. win may end Republican reign in Albany

Democrat Addabbo's anticipated challenge to Queens Republican Sen. Serphin Maltese is seen by his party's leaders as the linchpin race in the quest to seize complete control of Albany for the first time since the 1960s. "There is no race more important than this one," Senate Minority Leader Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans) crowed at a recent Addabbo fund-raiser. "We should all eat, sleep and dream Joe Addabbo Jr.!"

Democrats aim to erase the Republicans' razor-thin, two-seat majority by toppling veteran lawmakers in suburban Queens and Long Island - two areas that have been trending red to blue in recent years.

That puts a bull's-eye firmly on the backs of Maltese, 75, a 10-term incumbent, and fellow Senate longtimer Ceaser Trunzo of Suffolk County, who has served 17 consecutive terms.

"The Democrats in some ways aren't really running against candidates. They're running against a fellow named been-around-too-long," said Democratic political consultant Hank Sheinkopf.

Though defeating entrenched incumbents is no easy task, Maltese has been a prime target since 2006, when political newcomer Albert Baldeo nearly defeated him despite the lack of Democratic Party backing.

Addabbo's expected challenge this fall would force Maltese to defend the 15th Senate District - more than 2-to-1 Democratic - against a 44-year-old, two-term councilman whose father served in Congress and has a bridge named after him in the district.

If an Addabbo victory triggers a Senate takeover for the Democrats, the party would achieve a virtual stranglehold on state politics.

"You've got the possibility of state government and representation in national government being almost entirely blue, if you will," said Baruch College political science Prof. Doug Muzio.

Addabbo, who is expected to announce his candidacy in coming weeks, said he is focusing on his ability to serve the district, not serve as a poster boy for a Democratic Senate power grab.

"Sen. Maltese was very close to Gov. Pataki, but there is no longer a Gov. Pataki," he said. "The bottom line is I know I can do a better job."

Maltese, who expects to be one of the main beneficiaries of the Senate Republican fund-raising machine, attributed his 2006 scare to weak GOP candidates at the top of the ticket.

He believes Sen. John McCain, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, will be a major asset this time around.

"I've already met with Sen. McCain, and I expect that I will be getting assistance from him," Maltese said.

However, Maltese's greatest ally in his reelection bid may be Baldeo, who is vowing to challenge Addabbo in a primary and run a third-party candidacy in the general election, should he lose.

"That's fantastic from my point of view," Maltese said.                                                                                   "I hope the two of them fight it out."

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