Guv denies pressure to nix special election

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Gov. David Paterson’s office and state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans) denied a report that the governor’s decision Friday to recall a proclamation that set up a special election to fill disgraced former state Assemblyman Anthony Seminerio’s seat was made after he faced pressure from Smith and two other influential Democrats.

“It was merely an error in our office,” said Paterson spokeswoman Marissa Shorenstein about the governor issuing a news release announcing the special election Friday and then rescinding it hours later. The proclamation “was thought to be signed off on and it wasn’t.”

The New York Post report, citing anonymous sources, claimed Paterson’s move to cancel the special election “pissed off” the Queens Democratic Party, including its chairman, U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), because the organization does not want Ozone Park attorney Albert Baldeo to get the seat.

Smith, state Sen. John Sampson (D-Brooklyn) and U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-St. Albans) reportedly demanded that Paterson rescind the special election because they favored Baldeo, who the Post claimed was not qualified to run in a special election because he could not fulfill the district’s one-year residency requirement.

Smith spokesman Austin Shafran denied the senator was involved in Paterson’s reversal, let alone that he had chosen a preferred candidate for the seat.

“Sen. Smith hasn’t endorsed anyone for the eventual election to fill Anthony Seminerio’s seat nor did he play any role in the governor’s decision to withdraw the proclamation for a special election,” Shafran said.

Crowley spokeswoman Angela Barranco deferred a request for comment to the Queens Democratic Party.

The party’s executive secretary, Michael Reich, could not be reached for comment nor could Meeks.

Baldeo also said he had a problem with the Post story because he has lived in the district since 2006 and would be eligible to run in a special election.

He also disputed the notion that the Queens Democratic organization would not want him to have the Assembly seat.

“Why wouldn’t they want to run the strongest candidacy?” asked Baldeo, who bowed out of a potential primary last year in favor of then-Councilman Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach), who defeated former state Sen. Serphin Maltese (R-Glendale). “You have to pick the best horse out there and I’m that horse.”

Seminerio pleaded guilty in June to corruption charges and abruptly resigned from the seat the day before his plea. An indictment claimed he set up a fake consulting company that took in more than $1 million in illegal payments from entities seeking his influence, including Jamaica Hospital.

The hospital and its Medicaid-managed health plan paid Seminerio $390,000.

The former lawmaker of more than 20 years was scheduled to be sentenced in October in Manhattan federal court.

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

Posted 6:32 pm, October 10, 2011
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