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Special election victory gives Republicans hope for Nov.

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Queens Republican leaders said they believe newly elected City Councilman Anthony Como's (R-Middle Village) recent win in the special election to replace former City Councilman Dennis Gallagher was a sign that state Sen. Serphin Maltese (R-Glendale) would fare well during his fall re-election bid.

Como defeated Democratic frontrunner Elizabeth Crowley and fellow Republican Thomas Ognibene in the June 3 election to replace Gallagher, who stepped down from office as part of a plea deal that kept him out of prison following his arrest last year for sexually abusing a 52-year-old Middle Village woman.

The borough's Republican Party leaders said the win potentially foreshadowed success for Maltese's fall campaign.

"There's a general recognition in Albany by Democrats and Republicans alike that [Como's win] was a stupendous coup," said Maltese, for whom Como previously worked as an aide. "We are going to do very well in the fall because our constituents are sophisticated enough to separate national issues from who is doing the most for their community."

During his 2006 re-election bid, Maltese defeated Democratic challenger Albert Baldeo, a Guyanese-born Ozone Park attorney, by only 900 votes in a race that the 10-term senator had been expected to easily clinch.

Registered Democrats heavily outweigh registered Republicans in the district, which covers a number of neighborhoods, including Maspeth, Middle Village, Woodside, Howard Beach and Richmond Hill.

And it remains to be seen how state Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno's (R-Saratoga Springs) announcement Tuesday that he would not run for re-election would affect the Queens County Republican Party.

But Queens GOP Chairman Philip Ragusa said Como's win would have been larger if former City Councilman Thomas Ognibene, a 2005 mayoral candidate, had not been running for Gallagher's seat. He said he believed Maltese would defeat Baldeo and City Councilman Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach), who is also running for the seat, in the November election.

"It's not going to be an easy race, but Maltese will build up his margin of victory," Ragusa said.

Ragusa said the borough GOP was also eyeing other Albany seats held by state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone), who will be challenged by Flushing businessman Peter Koo, and state Assemblywoman Margaret Markey (D-Maspeth), who will face community activist Tony Nunziato.

Como, whose district overlaps with Maltese's district, said he has already started gathering petitions for his re-election bid this fall. Ognibene said he does not plan to run against Como in the fall, but Crowley said she would make another bid for the seat.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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