Dems win control of Albany for first time since Depression

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Democrats have taken the state Senate from Republicans, buoyed by City Councilman Joseph Addabbo’s (D−Howard Beach) victory over state Sen. Serphin Maltese (R−Glendale), 57 percent to 43 percent, according to preliminary results reported by NY1

The election marked the first time Democrats had regained control of the upper chamber of the state Legislature since 1964 and the first time they have held the governorship and both legislative houses since the Great Depression.

While Democrats will constitute a majority in the Senate come January, state Sen. Malcolm Smith’s (D−St. Albans) future as the leader of the Senate is unclear.

A group of two incumbent Democratic senators and two Democratic senators−elect – including Queens’ Hiram Monserrate – have formed an “independent caucus” that has not committed to choosing Smith or any other senator as majority leader.

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 Councilman Hiram Monserrate (D−Corona), 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 hkoplowitz@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 173.

Posted 6:38 pm, October 10, 2011
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