That Democrat appears to be Howard Beach Councilman Joseph Addabbo, whose contemplated bid for Maltese's seat this year would gain considerable muscle if backed by Bloomberg's enormous finances and popularity.Such a party switch was viewed as a slight to the state Legislature's Republican leadership for, in part, failing to give enough money to the city for schools. It was also a cold shoulder to Glendale's Maltese, who angered Bloomberg when he initially backed his Republican challenger for mayor, Thomas Ognibene of Ridgewood. Ognibene ultimately ran on the Conservative Party line after Bloomberg forced him off the GOP ballot."Obviously the deterioration of the relationship was a factor," a Bloomberg aide said. "But the fact is Mr. Maltese has never been helpful in delivering education aid money to New York City schools."Maltese countered in a telephone interview that he threw his full support behind the mayor after Ognibene was knocked off the primary ballet. As for school funding, the senator said Bloomberg was taking the wrong approach."We should sit down and work out an equitable solution," he said, referring to both the mayor and the Republican-controlled state Senate. "It's not going to be easy, but it shouldn't be handled by pointing fingers and throwing down the gauntlet."Addabbo, who has not said he is definitely vying for the Maltese's office, took the news of the mayor's backing with a grain of salt."I applaud the mayor's support, but right now it's a personal thing between him and Serf," Addabbo said. He added, however, that the support would still be more than welcome if he chooses to run against Maltese, a Senate powerhouse who has not been seriously challenged in 18 years.The Howard Beach councilman said he has formed a campaign committee and been raising money, but it could go toward any number of different posts, including the state Assembly, Congress or the Queens borough presidency. He added that if term limits in the Council were extended, he would remain where he was.Unlike Maltese, Addabbo is seen by Bloomberg as a strong proponent of getting what he called the city's "fair share" of education funds from the state.The city has long awaited a $5.6 billion annual increase in school funding from Albany since a court ordered it in 2003. Gov. George Pataki, who has stalled on the issue, announced in his budget proposal that the state's $2 million surplus would go toward a tax credit for parents of schoolchildren rather than directly to city schools under the court ruling -- a move that angered city officials including Bloomberg."Regardless of party affiliation we need the best man to fight for this and I think that's where the mayor's thoughts lie right now," he said.Indeed, when asked at a news conference Monday in Manhattan about his involvement in a race against Maltese, Bloomberg said the "only criteria I will use in determining who to support" will be whoever fights most for that money, according to comments provided by the mayor's office.Bloomberg did, however, applaud the governor's proposal Tuesday to give the city broader authority over its charter schools.Ognibene also pointed out that the mayor has long pressured Maltese to shed his position as chairman of the Queens Republican Party."This is his way of saying he can't have both," said the one-time Middle Village councilman, who also considers Maltese's dual role a conflict of interest.Ognibene once served as Maltese's right-hand man in the party leadership but came out against his former boss after Maltese switched his support to Bloomberg in the mayor's race.Some saw Bloomberg's partisan shift as indicative of the Republican's weakening grip on the Senate as well. Ognibene pointed to at least four Senate seats, including Maltese's and that of Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose), which are currently threatened by Democrats."I always hope the Republican Senate remains in power," he said. "But it has been drifting to the left for years."Maltese said if it came down to a race with Bloomberg backing Addabbo he was still confident of his chances, adding that he could raise $1 million."I haven't had an opponent in the last five races and that isn't because of my good looks," he said. "But I hope it doesn't come to that. I'm hoping cooler heads will prevail." Reach reporter Zach Patberg at news@times
©2006 Community News Group
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