Albert Baldeo hints at third-party run for Serphin Maltese's state Senate seat

Democratic insurgent candidate Albert Baldeo - who is running for incumbent Republican Serphin Maltese's Senate seat - will launch a new party called "Hope and Change" if he loses to City Councilman Joseph Addabbo in the September primary.

State Democrats have pledged at least $1 million to help Addabbo win the seat and end decades of Senate control by the GOP, which now holds a slim and vulnerable two-seat margin in the upper house.

But Baldeo - who ran without county support and narrowly lost to Maltese in 2006 - has vowed to stay in the race until the bitter end.

"I'm looking at a third-party candidacy run," said Baldeo, who was defeated by less than 800 votes in 2006. "In the unlikely event we don't win the primary, we owe it to those voters to give them a second chance to vote for me."

Baldeo tried to make peace with the Democratic party leaders earlier this year - even asking for a judgeship in return for not running in the Senate election - but his overtures weren't welcomed.

"He asked if we would support him [for a judge's position] and we said 'no,'" said Michael Reich, executive secretary of the Queens Democratic Party. "[Baldeo] made a call and said, 'Listen, I want to support Joe [Addabbo]. I think that a primary would be divisive and would hurt the chances of the party and I hope you would consider me for a judgeship.'"

The South Ozone Park candidate was turned down because the deadline for the judicial screening panel had already passed, Reich said.

Baldeo is also mulling a legal challenge against the Working Families Party, alleging that the party's leadership fixed a vote when both he and Addabbo applied for its endorsement.

"They rigged the vote in favor of Addabbo," Baldeo said. "A lot of [the screening panel] told me that they wanted to vote for me."

But Working Families Party members dispute his account of those events.

"We have a very thorough process," said party member Jos? Schiffino. "The Queens WFP chapter screened both candidates, and Joseph Addabbo got our recommendation fair and square. Our support for Joe could not be more clear."

Baldeo has recently hired campaign workers and pledges to have at least 5,000 ballot signatures - well above the necessary amount - so that his campaign can withstand legal challenges from both Maltese and Addabbo.

"I'm getting tremendous pressure from voters for my name to be on the ballot," Baldeo said. "With (Barack) Obama at the top of (Democratic) ticket, they're looking for someone like me. I'm a hope and change candidate."

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