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Queens key to Senate fight

But the hopes of Sens. Serphin Maltese (R-Glendale) and Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) remaining in the majority, where Republicans now outnumber Democrats 32-30, were bolstered after Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-independent, reportedly donated $500,000 to the state GOP to help keep the Senate in Republican hands. In spite of the GOP loss upstate, Maltese and Padavan said they will not switch parties to help form a Democratic majority in the Senate, which has been part of Gov. Eliot Spitzer's strategy to overtake the chamber from Republicans and included offering positions in his administration to Senate Republicans.The upstate senate seat, which covers Jefferson, Oswego and St. Lawrence counties near the Canadian border, opened up after state Sen. Jim Wright (R-Watertown), retired.Darryl Aubertine, a Democratic state assemblyman, defeated Will Barclay, a Republican assemblyman, in the special election, 52 to 48 percent.Maltese, who called the outcome of the special election "a wake-up call" to Republicans, acknowledged that Democrats are zeroing in on his seat but said both of his opponents so far Ð City Councilman Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) and Ozone Park attorney Albert Baldeo, who captured 48 percent of the vote against Maltese in 2006 Ð will be weakened come November."There's no question my seat is being targeted," Maltese said. "But we have a minimum of two Democrats running. They are spending more than enough time attacking each other and that's fine with me."Padavan, who said he was offered a position in Spitzer's administration last year, said he has not been approached by the governor's people about switching parties.He said his campaign strategy would be no different, although the senator is arguably facing his most serious opponent Ð City Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) Ð since he was elected in 1972."Look, this will be my 19th campaign that I've run," Padavan said. "We've never taken anything for granted. We take an aggressive campaign and campaign on my record in the community."On Bloomberg's $500,000 donation, Padavan said the gesture should not come as a surprise to state Democrats, who were angered after the mayor said he made the contribution because GOP senators have taken care of the city."The Democrats wouldn't put him on their line" when he ran for mayor in 2001, Padavan said. "Why should (Bloomberg) not contribute to the party who made it possible for him to be mayor?"He agreed with the mayor's assessment that Republicans have been better to the city than Democrats."I have been the major sponsor of city legislation over the years," Padavan said, citing the law that repealed city sales tax on clothing and legislation to lower class sizes."Obviously, as an advocate for the city, the mayor appreciates and he has said to me many times, 'We laud your efforts on our behalf and we'd like to see you stay'" in the majority, the senator said.He said the $500,000 donation "is nothing" compared to Spitzer's efforts to overtake the Senate."We have a governor who poured millions of dollars into this special election," Padavan said. "Who's supposed to get upset because the mayor's supporting (Republicans)? If you have a scale, I don't think it's tipping in our direction."He noted that Spitzer also hosted a December fund-raiser for Gennaro that netted more than $250,000.Should Democrats overtake the Senate, state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans), who is now the minority leader, would become majority leader.But Padavan said Queens would not benefit should Smith become the second-most powerful Democrat in the state, noting that the governor's policies, including the controversial plan to give driver's licenses to illegal immigrants, would have passed if Democrats controlled the Legislature."I don't think the general public is best served by an oligarchy," he said. "I think most people I talk to understand that."Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.

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