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A day after the election catapulted them into the majority in the state Senate, Democrats agreed Wednesday to continue to back state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans) as their leader. But four senators – including Queens’ Hiram Monserrate – have not said whether they will support the Queens Democrat.
The so-called “Gang of Four” has also not made it clear whether they would jump ship to the Republicans, which would enable the GOP to retain its majority.
Buoyed by City Councilman Joseph Addabbo’s (D-Howard Beach) victory over state Sen. Serphin Maltese (R-Glendale), whom he defeated 57 percent to 43 percent, according to preliminary results reported by NY1, Democrats will have a majority of at least two seats in the Senate for the first time since 1965 as long as the “Gang of Four” does not break away. The Democratic margin could be cut to one if state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) hangs on to win a deadheat race in Queens.
The election marked also the first time Democrats have held the governorship and both legislative houses since the Great Depression.
Senate Democrats traveled to Albany Wednesday for a meeting at which they reaffirmed their support for Smith as the leader of their party in the Senate. But the four dissidents did not attend the session, throwing into question where their ultimate allegiance might lie. The official vote on the post will be taken in January.
Monserrate, who won his seat unopposed after Sen. John Sabini (D-Jackson Heights) resigned to take a post in the executive branch, joined the group of dissidents, two of whom are from the Bronx and one from Brooklyn. The “Gang of Four” wants to form a Latino causus in other to give Latin Americans a more visible and powerful role in Albany.
“As the first Latino elected to the state Senate from Queens, I look forward to using this moment of change and hope to bring a new voice to Albany, including the voice of the large, growing and diverse Latino community,” Monserrate said in a statement.
Smith, who would become the first black majority leader if elected in the Senate, has indicated that he is prepared to welcome a Latino caucus, the Associated Press reported.
The Democratic infighting threatens to divert some attention away from the ballooning state budget deficit of $14 billion as Gov. David Paterson attempts to win widespread support in the Democratic ranks for draconian budget cuts. The Democrats strengthened their numbers in the state Assembly as well as the Senate.
Addabbo campaign spokeswoman Alexis Grenell said Addabbo “is humbled and elated” by his victory. She attributed the win to Addabbo’s “positive message” and the yearning for change felt across the country and the district.
“I think this district was ready for change – more than ever,” she said.
The borough’s other Republican senator, state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose), was in a dead-heat race with City Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows), where the Republican led by 723 votes with all precincts reporting. The election now hinges on absentee ballots and the race could be headed to the courts.
Along with Addabbo’s victory, state Democrats also picked up a seat on Long Island in their bid to wrest control of the Senate from Republicans.The wins give the Democrats 32 seats to the Republicans’ 29 with the Padavan-Gennaro race too close to call.
In western Queens, Maltese, who was first elected in 1988, said he telephoned Addabbo to concede about an hour after the polls closed. He said a wave of excitement fueled by Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama was critical to his defeat.
“I think it was the Obama glamor,” he said. “He certainly was a charismatic figure.”
Despite a well-financed challenge from Flushing business owner Peter Koo, Stavisky (D-Whitestone) beat the Republican newcomer by 68 percent to 31 percent, according to preliminary results.
Padavan and Gennaro remained in a tight race as the day after the election, with the Republican senator leading by fewer than 800 votes with all precincts reporting.
The councilman was optimistic that he could pull off a come from behind victory.
“Life is unknown and the end of this contest is not written,” he said from a party Democrats were holding inside First Edition on Bell Boulevard. “At the end of the day, this kid is going to the Senate.”
Padavan could not immediately be reached for comment.
In other state Senate races in Queens, state Sen. George Onorato (D-Long Island City) easily defeated his Republican opponent, Tom Dooley, 80 percent to 20 percent.
State Sen. Shirley Huntley (D-Jamaica) ran unopposed, as did Monserrate, who became the borough’s first Hispanic state senator.
Senate Minority Leader Malcolm Smith (D-Jamaica) also did not have a primary opponent. His focus now turns to the upcoming vote that will determine whether he will continue to lead Senate Democrats.
Anna Gustafson contributed to this story.
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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