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Maltese poll says he has big lead over Addabbo

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An internal poll conducted by state Sen. Serphin Maltese's (R-Glendale) campaign last week showed the longtime incumbent defeating his likely Democratic challenger, City Councilman Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach), in November by 27 points.

The poll, done by Virginia-based McLaughlin & Associates and sent to Maltese's campaign June 18, said the senator "is in a much better position than expected" to win re-election. It was published on an Albany Times Union blog.

Of the 400 likely voters questioned, 45 percent said they would vote for Maltese, 18 percent for Addabbo and 3 percent for attorney Albert Baldeo, a Democrat who came within five percentage points of defeating Maltese in 2006. Baldeo said he would run as an independent if he does not win the Democratic primary.

"Based upon these results, incumbent Sen. Serf Maltese is in better than expected position to win re-election," a memo accompanying the poll said.

Maltese said he was surprised at how well the poll showed he was doing.

"One of the things that I'm constantly aware of is that I'm in a district that is 2-1 Democrat," he said. "President Bush is not doing well. I think people are unhappy about gas, about the sub-prime mortgages."

But Addabbo said he believed the numbers are a good sign for him, arguing that Maltese should have done better because he is a 20-year incumbent. The councilman also said he thinks the results indicate that the Republicans were overrepresented.

"I wasn't upset by these numbers," Addabbo said. "I thought the numbers weren't that great for (Maltese's campaign) to crow about."

Maltese's seat, which covers Glendale, Middle Village, Maspeth, Richmond Hill, Ozone Park and Howard Beach, is being targeted by Democrats, as Republicans hold only a two-seat majority in the state Senate.

Besides the numbers, the poll said another "sign of the senator's momentum for re-election is that his endorsed candidate, Anthony Como, recently won the special election for City Council."

Referring to Maltese's close victory over Baldeo in 2006, the poll said, "Sen. Serf Maltese is building a strong organization throughout the district and is better prepared than two years ago. Also, unlike 2006, where Hillary Clinton and Eliot Spitzer were on top of the ballot, [Maltese] now has a popular John McCain running against a less popular Democrat."

Clinton is a Democratic U.S. senator from New York and former presidential candidate. Spitzer recently stepped down as New York state governor because of a sex scandal. McCain is a Republican U.S. senator and the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

The poll showed McCain leading U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) — the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee — among the respondents, 42 percent to 37 percent, with 21 percent undecided.

Maltese said he believed McCain, a Vietnam veteran whose ordeal of being tortured is well known, will help him more than Obama will help Addabbo.

"I probably have one of the largest number of veterans of any district in the state," he said. "I think the veterans are going to be simpatico with John McCain.

"I think by November people will be tired with hope and change," the senator said, referring to Obama's campaign theme.

Maltese had a 56 percent favorable rating, according to the poll, while Addabbo was at 33 percent. But the senator also had a higher unfavorable rating than Addabbo at 11 percent to the councilman's 9 percent.

More respondents said they had no opinion of Addabbo than those who had no opinion of Maltese — 27 percent to 20 percent — and the councilman also had a higher percentage of voters saying they never heard of him (32 percent) than Maltese (13 percent).

"We still have much work to do, but Sen. Maltese is in much better position than expected and has greatly improved his position for re-election," the poll said.

The poll also found Addabbo would be weakened because he "lost his biggest backer when Gov. Spitzer resigned in scandal."

But Addabbo refuted that claim.

"That's wrong," he said. "They keep thinking that Eliot Spitzer had all this sort of money. The money will still be there."

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.

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