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Union backs Gennaro in race for state Senate

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City Councilman James Gennaro (D−Fresh Meadows) called his recent endorsement by the United Auto Workers a sign that workers are supporting his race for state Senate in rocky financial times. But state Sen. Frank Padavan (R−Bellerose) brushed off the union’s backing of his opponent and cited his own endorsement from the AFL−CIO.

“The UAW represents auto workers, writers and even some teachers — working families that have seen the failed policies of Albany and want to do everything they can to stop it,” Gennaro said. “The UAW’s endorsement will help drive my campaign to victory.”

Padavan, a 36−year incumbent, contended the UAW’s endorsement of Gennaro last week was not as significant as the weight the AFL−CIO has thrown behind his own campaign.

“I have support from workers,” Padavan said. “The people who are concerned about their savings, their stocks, their retirement funds know I’m working for them.”

With less than a month to go before an election that determines whether Republican state senators will hang on to their one−seat majority in Albany or if Democrats will claim the majority for the first time since 1965, the candidates are crisscrossing the area in a mad dash to knock on as many residents’ doors and shake as many locals’ hands as possible.

The 11th Senate District covers Bayside, Douglaston, College Point, Little Neck, and Glen Oaks as well as parts of Whitestone, Kew Gardens and Fresh Meadows.

“I have been through these times before — the fiscal crisis in the mid−1970s, the stock market crash in ’87, the aftermath of Sept. 11,” Padavan said. “I’ve demonstrated I can make the right decisions to bring us out of this as far as the state is concerned.”

Either Padavan or Gennaro will travel to Albany for a special session Nov. 18 that Gov. David Paterson has called for, and Padavan said he expects lawmakers to look at further budget cuts while “being committed to sustaining policies with education and health care.”

“There are areas we can look at to save money,” Padavan said. “State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli has said 32,000 people are on Medicaid but don’t live in New York anymore — that’s a billion dollars we could save.”

Gennaro argued that the “state is addicted to out of control spending” and pointed out that the funds coming out of Albany often do not make their way to the city.

“Albany gives New York City $11 billion less in funding than it receives from city residents through things like income and real estate and sales tax,” Gennaro said.

A recent surge in registered Democrats has Gennaro encouraged that he could benefit from an anticipated record number of voters coming out for the presidential election.

According to the city Elections Board, 4,100 people registered between January and August as Democrats in the area Gennaro and Padavan are vying to represent, compared to 711 newly registered Republicans.

“It’s critically important we win this,” Gennaro said. “People want to see the log jam broken in Albany and the Republicans are desperately trying to hang on to power at any cost.”

Padavan, however, said he is not discouraged by the spike in registered Democrats, since the area has been predominantly Democratic for years and residents have continued to usher him in as senator. Democrats currently outnumber Republicans nearly 4−to−1.

“In this part of the world, people make a distinction between the party and the person,” Padavan said. “They vote for the individual and his or her record of achievement. It isn’t the party that counts.”

Reach reporter Anna Gufstason by e−mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 174.

Posted 6:38 pm, October 10, 2011
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