Padavan maintains slight lead in state Senate race

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The battle for the 11th Senate District is still raging, often for more than 12 hours a day, in a crowded room in the Queens Board of Elections office in Kew Gardens, and neither state Sen. Frank Padavan (R−Bellerose) nor City Councilman James Gennaro (D−Fresh Meadows) is going to be waving a white flag any time soon.

Borough and state Democrats are accusing Republicans of disenfranchising Asian and Hispanic voters. They also have been up in arms over the fact that Frank Padavan’s daughter, Allison Padavan, voted by absentee ballot and in person in what turned out to be a perfectly legal progression of events.

Padavan, whose lead over Gennaro has increased since last week, said his opponent’s party’s claims of racism are “absurd,” though he did confirm his daughter voted by absentee ballot and at a polling station

“It’s scurrilous, despicable, fraught with lies, is hypocritic­al,” Padavan said of the allegations that Republicans are disenfranchising minority voters. “It’s more of the campaign rhetoric that the Parkside Group utilizes.”

The Parkside Group, a political consulting firm, has been working with the Gennaro campaign.

Padavan is currently leading his challenger by 692 votes as of Monday, according to a Board of Elections official. Following the machine recanvassing about two weeks ago, the 36−year incumbent’s lead had dropped from 723 to 474.

For a little less than a week, Democrats have been in an uproar over what they said was a Republican strategy to challenge minority voters’ ballots.

“It’s an ongoing process fluctuating by the hour because the Republicans have challenged nearly every ballot of a minority voter or a voter who has a typically minority surname, and it’s slowing down the process tremendous­ly,” said Austin Shafran, a spokesman for the state Democratic Senate Campaign Committee. “At last check, there were 200 ballots that had been cast aside because there were splits with how the commissioners ruled on it, and those ballots will have to be decided by a judge.”

Originally, there were about 8,000 paper ballots that needed to be counted. According to an Elections Board official, there are fewer than 2,000 left.

The committee held a protest outside the board’s Kew Gardens office last Thursday, when about 35 people gathered outside the building and waved signs on which slogans like “Stop the Suppression” and “Every vote counts” were written.

“We represent many first time voters and immigrants — people who are disgusted by the Queens Republican Party, which is trying to disenfranchise voters,” Pat Purcell, director of special projects for the UFCW Local 1500, said at the protest. “We’ve seen this from Republicans in places like Ohio and Florida, where every effort is made to cling to power instead of letting the democratic process take place.”

Padavan said the ability to challenge erroneous ballots is an important part of democracy.

“They have to determine whether the voter is a registered voter, and if they are registered in the district in question,” Padavan said last week. “That requires a review of the records of the Elections Board and a determination …. Every vote counts in our democracy.”

Padavan has recently come under fire because media reports, including NY1, over the weekend said the senator’s daughter voted twice — once by absentee ballot and once in person. According to the senator, however, Allison Padavan’s absentee ballot was discarded.

Padavan said his daughter, who teaches abroad, had mailed an absentee ballot from Spain because she did not expect to be home for the election. Elections Board officials said what Allison Padavan did was legal and only one of her ballots counted.

Posted 6:40 pm, October 10, 2011
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