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Dems use media to battle boro’s GOP senators

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In the high−stakes battle for control of the state Legislature, Sen. Serphin Maltese (D−Glendale) is relying on advertisements rather than staged news conferences to get his message across.

Democrats are targeting the borough’s other Republican senator, Frank Padavan (R− Bellerose), who has taken a somewhat different tack in his re−election race but has not held any news conferences for his campaign.

With only a one−seat GOP majority in the Senate, both Maltese − the former Queens County Republican chairman − and Padavan are facing aggressive campaigns from Democrats who have held a series of news conference to spotlight their runs while both incumbents have not had much of a press operation.

”They’re not trying to call attention to the election because they have to run as Republicans,” said Evan Stavisky, about the two Republicans. He is a Democratic consultant with The Parkside Group, which is working for Gennaro.

But both Republican senators have appeared in public debates at civic organizations throughout their districts and held appearances with some of their top supporters – former Mayor Rudy Giuliani for Maltese and Mayor Michael Bloomberg for Padavan.

Maltese, who is in a tight race with Councilman Joseph Addabbo (D−Howard Beach), has spent more than $1 million on television advertisements this year, state campaign finance records showed.

Unlike holding a news conference, which produces stories that identify the candidate’s party affiliation, ads do not have to mention which political party the candidate belongs to.

Maltese is able to run the expensive ads — including a spot on CNN that aired before U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D−N.Y.) addressed the Democratic National Convention in July — in part because he has received $890,000 from the Republican Senate Campaign Committee, a signal that his seat is vulnerable.

The senator received no contributions from the committee during his last re−election bid in 2006.

Austin Shafran, a spokesman for the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, said “Addabbo and Gennaro have been well−funded and they received help from the state party,” he said.

The two Democrats have not spent any campaign funds on TV ads, but they have been more active in calling news conferences than their Republican opponents.

“It comes down to the fact that Joe’s not afraid to talk about the issues and subject himself to the press” said Alexis Grenell, a spokeswoman for Addabbo’s campaign. Maltese “doesn’t do press conferences because he doesn’t have issues to talk about. If he had a record to run on, I’m sure he’d be speaking about it.”

Maltese said he has been making the rounds to civic organizations in the district and contended that holding news conferences were not as effective.

“A news conference isn’t what raises visibility,” he said.

Grenell countered by saying spending campaign money on TV ads was not an effective way to reach voters and that Addabbo was also putting his resources into field work, nightly canvasses and mailings.

“When you do a major ad buy in CNN, that ad buy is going in Brooklyn and Queens,” she said, referring to one of Maltese’s ads, which was an apparent attempt to court Democratic voters. “Who watches the Democratic convention before Hillary Clinton speaks? Democrats.”

Maltese is also using mailings as part of his campaign.

“As far as literature, we’re burying people,” he said.

The senator has spent $1,288 on campaign mailings and nearly $50,000 on print advertisements, compared to the $29,726 Addabbo spent on mailings and $4,756 on print ads.

While Padavan has not done any TV spots, he also has not made much of an attempt to get his name in the media besides print ads. Of the $240,000 spent by his campaign so far, it budgeted $34,000 for advertisements in borough weeklies and $17,352 on literature. His largest amount of spending is $96,870 for “other” expenses, followed by nearly $50,000 on fund−raising expenses.

By comparison, Gennaro has flooded the district with campaign literature, spending more than $309,000 on that expense.

He also began airing TV ads Wednesday that attacked Padavan for his “anti−women” agenda.

Gennaro, like Addabbo, has also held about two news conferences a week running up to the election.

“The Republican candidates, like Frank Padavan, like Serf Maltese, don’t want to talk about the issues because they’ve shepherded this current economic crisis,” said Gennaro spokesman Shams Tarek. “The more people are aware of this election, the worse it’s going to be” for Padavan and Maltese.

The two Republican senators have rarely used the press to politicize their campaigns.

Padavan has not held any news conferences while Maltese called one – to announce an endorsement from the health care workers union 1199 SEIU.

But they have invited the media to appearances they held with top supporters – former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani for Maltese and Mayor Michael Bloomberg for Padavan.

Padavan said his campaign has been positive and using mailings to tout his record while Gennaro’s campaign took a different tone.

“His news conferences have been nothing but attacking me,” the senator said, referring to Gennaro. “He’s running a totally negative campaign and my campaign is totally positive. His mailings and everything he says is totally false and outright lies. Hardwork, proven success, accomplishment always trumps lies falsehoods and smear campaigns.”

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

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