With or Without Democratic Line, Baldeo Plans Senate Remark                                                                                   Says he will make racial debate central to Addabbo challenge

Adam Pincus                                                                                               March 10th, 2008

Albert Baldeo does not care that state and local Democratic leaders want him to stay out of the race against State Sen. Serphin Maltese (R-Queens). After surprising nearly everyone with the margin of his loss to Maltese in 2006—with virtually no support, he came within 1,000 votes over the ten-term incumbent—Baldeo is determined to run again, and is revving up for a largely self-financed insurgent campaign for the Democratic nomination.

He will be in the race no matter what, he said, and is willing to devote his own money and much of his time to fighting all the way to November.
“The voters in the district want change,” he said. “We are here for reform. We are not beholden to special interests, lobbyists and Democratic bosses.”
Baldeo currently has more money on hand than Maltese or his expected Democratic rival, City Council Member Joseph Addabbo.

The campaign for the seat, which stretches from Maspeth and Middle Village through South Ozone Park to Howard Beach, could cost more than $3 million between the candidates, insiders said, especially with the GOP’s now one-seat majority in the Senate. Like most of Queens, the district has a large number of immigrants. Half its population— made up largely of Italians, Irish, South Asians, Guyanese and Hispanics—is estimated to be first or second generation. Baldeo is himself a native of Guyana.

Addabbo said he will run on his record from two terms on the Council. He expects state and county party support, he said, but also hopes for Republican backing. “Every community is different in my district, and I have answered each community according to their needs,” he said. Addabbo said he expects to formally announce his candidacy in March or April.

At 75, Maltese is nearly 30 years older than either rival, but he said he is a hard-working author of more than 200 bills who delivers for his district and stays in touch by attending a daunting schedule of civic and religious gatherings. “I love this job; I love what I do,” he said, adding, “You have to ask others if my mind is still sharp.”

He said he has been pledged support by Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno (R-Rensselaer) in both help and money. “Senator Bruno indicated if I need it he would commit over $1 million to the race,” he said. Maltese has raised more than Baldeo and Addabbo over the past year—$214,245—but after paying hefty campaign bills, was left with only $89,694 on hand as of his January campaign finance filing. As of that same filing, Baldeo had raised $57,820 and Addabbo had raised $74,745. Baldeo also loaned his campaign $243,000 over the last year, giving him more than $309,000 on hand, according to the records. He said the money was earned from his work as an immigration attorney, and through real estate and financial investments.

Addabbo has $77,709 on hand, including $25,000 in transfers from two Council campaign funds that were not registered with the state Board of Elections. Democrats insist Addabbo will get sufficient funds from the party, noting Senate Minority Leader Malcolm Smith, a fellow Queens Democrat, is headlining a fundraiser in April for him to do just that.
Already through Smith, Addabbo also received $28,500 in three contributions from liberal philanthropist George Soros and his family.

The close election in 2006, in which Baldeo lost to Maltese by 894 votes, should not give Baldeo any advantage with the party, a Democratic consultant said. “The fact that Baldeo has run before does not give him some kind of hold on the nomination," said Scott Levenson, a political consultant close to the state Democratic Senate Campaign Committee.  Addabbo, Levenson added, “is widely respected by voters on both sides of the aisle and that is what it is going to take to win.” Michael Reich, executive secretary to the Queens Democratic Party, said Addabbo would make the stronger candidate against Maltese.

If Baldeo were to win the nomination, Reich said, “I feel our odds of winning the seat will be severely diminished.” Baldeo countered that Addabbo was out of touch with the changing community, charging that the Council member should have supported a Guyanese family in a dispute in largely white Howard Beach last year.

Addabbo said the dispute was not racially motivated, as Baldeo believes, and suggested that Baldeo was trying to misrepresent his position ahead of their upcoming primary battle.
“This situation that Albert labeled me a racist for, I think was a poor excuse for him to use this for political gain,” Addabbo said.

Baldeo plans to make campaign issues of that incident and “the fact that he has shunned minority staff,” he said, noting that though Addabbo’s Council district is largely white, “the Senate district is not reflective of the City Council district. It is a totally different ball game here.”

Addabbo said he had no minorities among eight full-time and several part-time staff members, but that he was color-blind when he selected applicants. “It is not the fact that I look not to hire. It is a question of who has applied for me and who is willing to do the work that I do. I demand a lot from my staff,” he said.

Baldeo pledged to fight on, even if he lost the party nomination. Even if not running as a Democrat, he expects thousands of the Democrats who voted for him in 2006 would vote for him in a 2008 general election. And he intends to give them that opportunity, no matter how the primary goes.
“My game plan,” he said, “is to seek as many third-party lines and form my own third-party line."

Link: With or Without Democratic Line, Baldeo Plans Senate Rematch

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