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Baldeo photo clouds truth on endorsements

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Ozone Park attorney Albert Baldeo, the self-proclaimed “frontrunner” in the race to replace former state Assemblyman Anthony Seminerio, sent out a press release strongly suggesting he had the backing of City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) and state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach).

The problem is Baldeo said in a phone interview he was “in the process of talking to [Crowley and Addabbo] to get their support” — a far cry from a solid endorsement.

The press release was headlined “Albert Baldeo’s State Assembly Candidacy Rakes In Endorsements And Broad Based Support,” and said, “Baldeo has won such widespread support that congressmen, elected officials, unions and community leaders … pledged their support for his candidacy to fill Seminerio’s seat.”

Following a quote from Baldeo is a photo, dated Oct. 3, 2008, with Baldeo posing with state Sen. John Sampson (D-Brooklyn), Dr. Philip Baldeo, Crowley and Addabbo.

Baldeo did say he had Sampson’s backing, which he said was finalized Tuesday.

He said he did not intend for the release to suggest he had Crowley’s and Addabbo’s endorsements, but wanted to highlight the “grassroots support” for his campaign from church groups, civic organizations and political clubs.

In a phone interview, Addabbo said he has not taken sides in the race.

“Right now, as of today, I plan to endorse no one,” the senator said, noting that he had conversations with Baldeo last week “and every other candidate.”

Addabbo said he knows all six candidates vying for the seat personally and said he learned a lesson from his father, the late Congressman Joseph Addabbo Sr., not to make an endorsement in such a case.

“When you have colleagues or friends that you have in the same race, we generally have to stay out of it,” he said.

Baldeo withdrew himself from the Democratic primary against Addabbo in the race against then-state Sen. Serphin Maltese last year, but Addabbo said he did not pressure Baldeo to back out.

“At the time, I was planning on a primary,” Addabbo said.

He saidhe did not feel an obligation to endorse Baldeo now after Baldeo withdrew from the primary last year.

“I still feel very grateful to Albert,” the senator said.

Crowley could not immediately be reached for comment.

Baldeo said he has the support of the Richmond Hill Ozone Park Democratic Club and the New Americans Democratic Club.

Since Seminerio resigned late last month, a day before he pleaded guilty to honest services mail fraud charges for taking roughly $1 million in corrupt payments from entities seeking his influence in Albany, a crowded field has emerged to replace him.

Besides Baldeo, other contenders include Community Board 9 member and Community District Education Council 24 President Nick Comaianni, Forest Park Senior Citizens Center Executive Director Donna Caltabiano, Community Board 5 member Michael Miller and Glendale resident Paul Gagliardotto.

It was unclear whether Gov. David Paterson would call a special election to fill the vacancy. State law allows the seat to be filled through primaries and the general election this November, even though Assembly and state Senate seats are not up until 2010.

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

Posted 6:34 pm, October 10, 2011
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