Padavan holds razor’s thin lead awaiting counting of paper ballots

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Although it is official that Democrats have taken control of the state Senate for the first time in decades, northeast Queens residents in the 11th Senate District will not likely know who will represent them in Albany until next week at the earliest.

State Sen. Frank Padavan (R−Bellerose) was barely holding onto his 723 vote lead over City Councilman James Gennaro (D−Fresh Meadows) with all 232 precincts counted, according to results reported NY1. Neither Padavan, the 36−year incumbent, nor Gennaro has conceded or declared victory in a race some had thought would not be so hotly contested.

Thousands of paper affidavit ballots need to be counted, which a Queens Board of Elections representative said would not be finished until late next week. Gennaro campaign officials said there were plans to recanvass the voting machines this week and next week.

“It’s a cliff hanger,” said Shams Tarek, a spokesman for Gennaro. “We’re down by only several hundred votes, and there are several thousand paper ballots still to be counted. Padavan did not declare victory, and we’re not conceding.”

Padavan did not return phone calls for comment.

Queens’ other Republican state senator went down in defeat in a race that had drawn interest around the state as the Democrats aggressively targeted him in their bid to seize the Republican­−dominated Senate , where the GOP had a one−seat minority before Election Day.

In the 15th Senate District, City Councilman Joseph Addabbo (D−Howard Beach) ended the 21−year reign of Sen. Serphin Maltese (R−Glendale) in Albany by capturing 57.49 percent of the vote. Maltese, who had been chairman of the Queens Republican Party before resigning two years ago, was viewed as more vulnerable than Padavan, but both men were caught in the Democratic back draft created by Barack Obama’s stunning presidential victory.

Hoping to topple the Padavan’s long−time hold on the state Senate in northeast Queens, Democrats used a high−profile strategy to promote their candidate. Gennaro frequently held news conferences and staged rallies. Near the end of the season, the Gennaro campaign organized protests outside Padavan’s office, which Padavan called “desperate.”

Both candidates had been endorsed by influential public officials, with Mayor Michael Bloomberg throwing his support behind Padavan and Gov. David Paterson giving his nod of support to Gennaro.

The two racked up a slew of other endorsements. The Citizens Union, the United Federation of Teachers, and the 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East endorsed Padavan. NARAL Pro−Choice New York, the Service Employees Union International 32BJ, and U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer supported Gennaro.

Padavan, who has represented the district since 1972, said he ran a positive campaign that focused on his past 36 years in the Senate, during which he said he was an advocate against crime, fought to contain costs of welfare and Medicaid, and was a proponent of education and the environment. Gennaro ran on the platform that he would breathe new life into Albany, which he said sends too little aid to New York City. Gennaro especially focused on his record on women’s rights in the waning days of the election.

In earlier elections, Padavan held off Democratic challenges from Morshad Alam, who ran against him without the borough party’s blessings, and Rory Lancman, who was just elected to his second term in the state Assembly from Fresh Meadows.

Gennaro, who is in his second term in the Council, had predicted the influx of new Democratic voters in the 11th District would help usher him to victory. Since July, 4,100 district residents registered Democratic, compared to 711 newly registered Republicans. Padavan had said he would manage to gain the support of residents despite Democrats outnumbering Republicans by about 3:1.

Posted 6:38 pm, October 10, 2011
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