Smith: A Leader Counting On A Victory
The Borough of Queens has had its share of powerful political players over the past several years: an assembly speaker; a vice presidential candidate; a governor; a congressman reverend whose options were endless and whose clout remains; a fallen borough president/county leaders who exerted real political power; a subsequent county leader who remained in the background, giving up his congressional seat, while helping to shape the future of the City.
Without names, City political observers know there is a long list and a long heritage of true insider playing on the part of the Queens Democrats. They come and go but there is always another in the wings ready to take control.
And while there is a large group of potential future political powerhouses in Queens, one of them will truly be tested this November as the Dems aim at taking a majority in the New York State Senate for the first time in more than a generation.
For only one year - 1965 - since 1939, has the NY Senate been in Democratic control. In a State where Dems outnumber Republicans, gerrymandering and uneven distribution of State resources have kept the state's majority party from achieving control of the upper house.
Year after year, Democratic State Senators have told this writer, that they would retake control.
Election after election, the Democrats failed.
However, for the first time since they began the monotonous chant, they believe it and so do I - at least I give it real credibility.
And should this miracle of Albany finally occur, the single person who will be credited with the victory or should the Republicans do it again, the single person who will be blamed for the loss is Queens State Senator Malcolm Smith.
Smith, who entered the Senate in 2000, was selected by his Democratic colleagues in 2006 to replace David Paterson as Minority Leader.
In Feb of 2008, the Dems won a special election upstate when Dem Daryl Aubertine won a previously Republican District.
However, the State Dems took a severe blow in March when the party's leader and major fundraiser, Eliot Spitzer resigned in disgrace. His successor, David Paterson, who had told this writer just days before his election as Lt. Gov that he was committed to help the Dems take control of the Senate took over as Governor and made peace with the Republicans and Joe Bruno and again weakened the Dem's shot at the majority.
The task fell to Minority Leader Smith - and as is the case in politics - he is not without his critics. But, it is the November Election outcome that will determine his success.
We spoke to Malcolm late last week and asked him to assess the Dems chances of becoming the majority party in the Senate.
"This is our time," Malcolm chanted almost hymnally.
But what about the apparent desertion by Governor Paterson, I inquired.
"Our Governor is governing and that's what he should do," Malcolm defended Paterson.
"It is my job to take the majority so that we can once again be the Empire State," Malcolm declared.
He sounded convinced, confident, but yet concerned.
"It is our number one priority!" Malcolm continued his chant.
How was he going to do it?
The victory would take a campaign warchest of close to $8 million, he explained, but only revealed, "we're on target" with our fundraising.
He identified the following seats as his stepping stones to victory:
Joe Addabbo will beat Serf Maltese in Queens' 15th Senate District. This is a Democratic District in a Democratic year Smith said as he counted this one as easy. In fact, Dems outnumber Repubs by more than 2 to 1 and Maltese almost lost the seat to a little known, under-funded candidate last time. This time facing Councilman Joe Addabbo Jr., even with the huge expenditure to date of State mailing funds and the advantage that the GOP funding is likely to bring, the Dem has to be favored.
The other easy one, Malcolm identified is on the South Shore of Suffolk County where Brookhaven Supervisor Brian Foley just threw his hat in the ring to challenge 82-year-old incumbent Republican Cesar Trunzo. Foley appears to face a primary from two-time loser Jimmy Dahroug. Malcolm suggested the primary may not occur and either way, popular Foley would prevail. In fact, the Democrats have recently won races in this area they have previously lost. Suffolk County observers have told us that this is likely to be a Democratic win.
That's two and all that is needed, but Smith didn't stop there.
He pointed to the Western New York's 56th Senate District near Rochester where Democrat Rick Dollinger has a significant enrollment advantage over incumbent Joe Robach, and to an open Erie County seat where expected Dem Primary winner Joe Mesi, with two other lines, should prevail over Republican Mike Ranzenhofer.
For good measure, Malcolm notes the hard campaigning by Queens Councilman Jim Gennaro possibly putting State Senator Frank Padavan's seat in play. And an upstate battle in Monroe County where Dem David Nachbar is coming on strong against incumbent Republican James Alesi.
In reality, the Dems have to pay attention to a couple of their incumbents but should be counted as the favorite in two and a possible in two other seats. After all these years, the math of gaining two seats and taking control of the Senate is certainly in reach.
It depends upon fundraising and careful allocation of resources. It depends upon the leadership of Queens' Malcolm Smith.
Malcolm, I asked in closing, do you need to gain two seats to remain Democratic leader?
"Yes, the leadership hangs on it," he shot back.
"And I won't take anything for granted," he added.
We'll be watching.
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Mike: You Wonder How to Stay in Public Life
HENRY J. STERN
The most important recurring event in City government
is the election of a mayor. Since the consolidation
of the five boroughs into greater New York, 18 men have
been elected mayor. Most, but not all, had unique talents
which enabled them to perform their duties effectively.
Some lacked these gifts. But for all mayors, their individual
strengths and weaknesses shaped their administrations.
The stories, which have appeared periodically concerning
Mayor Bloomberg's musings on his aspirations after his
second term ends, are most often attributed to the multi-tasking
Kevin Sheekey. Polls indicate that the voters like Mayor
Bloomberg and the job he has done for six years, but
they oppose the lifting of term limits. There is considerable
support for him as a candidate for governor.
To overrule the public votes in 1993 and 1996 would
be widely regarded as an outrage.
A more realistic possibility is a Bloomberg candidacy
for governor in 2010. This would be a chance to exert
real authority, administer a huge bureaucracy, remain
very much in the public eye, and think about 2012, when
he will still be younger than John McCain is today.
One important project that Mayor Bloomberg could undertake
would be to lead a non-partisan effort to seek a new
Constitutional Convention for New York State. Under
the existing antiquated, incredibly over-specific 51,000-word
constitution, the issue of whether to hold a new Convention
comes on the ballot automat-ically just once every 20
years. The proposal was defeated at the polls in 1997
as a result of heavy expenditures by unions and others
who enjoy particular benefits and immunities under the
The issue will not appear on the ballot again until
2017, unless the legislature votes for a convention,
which is not likely at this time considering their interest
in the status quo. Candidates must be elected to the
legislature who will support a con-con, as it was called.
This is a matter that should be taken up with statewide
elected officials, the state leadership of the political
parties and editorial boards and civic leaders throughout
the state. It could influence voters as to who to support
in the 2008 elections. If one waits to 2009 to begin
this effort, another two-year cycle will be lost.
Mayor Bloomberg would be an ideal person to devote time
and energy to this extremely important public cause.
Leading this effort would also leave him free to undertake
other public service missions for which his ability
make him uniquely qualified. He need not confine his
skills to his foundation, large as it will be, but should
engage in public citizenship, with the capacity to seek
elective office if circumstances warrant. He need not
confine his efforts to New York State, or the United
States; the world should be his oyster.
At a young 66, Mayor Bloomberg should definitely not
retire to his garden. He need not scramble to revise
the City Charter he has so long supported, nor appear
to wangle an exemption for himself and a raft of undistinguished
He need not decide today about running for governor
in 2010, although it should remain a strong possibility.
Opportunities for public service will arise, and he
should take advantage of situations in which his activity
can make a real difference. If he is invited to join
the Obama or McCain administration, he should make sure
he has a position which will afford him substantial
Mayor, we may not agree with everything you are doing.
But the future is yours. You should spend it in good
Not4Publication.com by Dom Nunziato