Where will they be in 2009?
By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
There’s a bit of whimsy in this column.
I have not researched or made phone calls to verify my presentation. I’m relying on rumor, hunch and common sense. I have enough confidence in my political savvy that I can prognosticate without verifying. After all, I’m writing about New York City elections in 2009 – way more than two years away.
I should ask a potential candidate? C’mon. They don’t always tell the truth. Often they don’t know and finally, situations change.
So here it is. My evaluation – 2-˝ years out on what the term- limited Queens City Councilmembers will be doing in the election of 2009 (or before).
First of all, although, thank goodness it appears the 36 or so members of the City Council who are term-limited out of office as of Dec. 31, 2009, are finally coming to grips with reality. They appear to be backing off from their self-serving plan to modify or overturn the term limit law passed by a referendum of the people. It’s not like they are doing so out of benevolence. They are doing so because changing term limits without going back to the people is just unacceptable and the people have made it clear that they want term limits. So if you run for Council, it’s eight years (maximum) and out. Mess with that and we’ll mess with you!
Next, there are 14 Councilmembers from Queens and only one of them is not term limited in 2009. What follows is our assessment of where you may find these ambitious and (for the most part) quality public servants.
Tony Avella, District 19: Believe it or not, Tony is running for Mayor. He’s serious. I can’t quite figure it out, but Tony is strong-willed and stubborn and passed up the opportunity to be the Senate Dems’ choice to take on Republican Frank Padavan in an election where more money would have been spent on Tony’s single Senate seat campaign than he can possibly raise in his Mayoral quest. The Don Quixote of Queens has windmills in his sights as he sets of on what is indeed “The Impossible Dream.”
John Liu, District 20: John, for the moment, has surpassed the best of the Council fundraisers as he tops the $1 million mark in funds raised for his next election. Wow! Only Mayoral candidate Comptroller Bill Thompson shows more received in the most recent filing. But what is John running for? The possibilities are limited. There’s Public Advocate, Borough President or perhaps he’ll try to switch places with Assemblywoman Ellen Young. In his small District with a large Asian population, John is king. Get out in the Borough or City, it will take more than big bucks to make John competitive. In a large field of Beep or a very large field of Public Advocate candidates, perhaps he’s a player. In his own Assembly District in 2008, he’s a shoe-in. And then Young could likely win the special election to replace John. No one has said this is a real scenario; I just think it’s politically a logical move for the capable Liu.
Hiram Monserrate, District 21: Who the heck knows. Hiram considers running for seats, vacant or not, and sure doesn’t let the Democratic organization influence him. We doubt he’ll commit suicide and challenge County Leader Joe Crowley for Congress anytime soon. He’ll look at John Sabini’s senate seat again. Would love to find a vacancy somewhere in his backyard. But like a number of other term-limited Council members, Hiram may wind up as the Latino candidate for Borough President hoping that the field is large and his ethnic voting block will turn out and surprise the pundits. Too bad he’s not eligible to run for Bronx Borough President.
Peter Vallone, Jr, District 22: While he patiently waits for DA Dick Brown to retire, Peter will try to find an elective office to hold. If as rumored, Astoria State Senator George Onorato retires, look for Vallone to easily take that seat. Otherwise, he’s likely to be one of a number of term-limited Council members in the Borough President race. He starts out however, with the best boroughwide name recognition.
David Weprin, District 23: No secret, David is running for Comptroller. He intends to parlay his position as Finance Chair and his background in banking and finance to the second biggest citywide prize. He’s working hard for it and is hoping to be the candidate of the Queens Democratic Organization. At the least, he’s a serious player. He might just be one of the frontrunners.
Jim Gennaro, District 24: The political grapevine has Jim as the Democratic challenger against State Senator Frank Padavan. Gennaro, a proven hard campaigner when he’s an underdog, will benefit from the fundraising of the Governor and the State Senate Dems who are just two seats away from capturing control of the Senate. Padavan is a hard worker and will be viewed as the clear frontrunner after serving the District well for a gazillion years. Gennaro however, cannot be disregarded.
Helen Sears, District 25: Unless Assemblyman Ivan Lafayette finally retires after recognizing the status quo of two decades ago is no longer acceptable to the people – or the governor, Helen probably will not run for office. She’ll take a governmental job and continue her long service to the people.
Eric Gioia, District 26: How do you spell ambition? And that is not a negative statement. Eric Gioia is miles ahead of his colleagues in knowledge of technology and fundraising. Having a wife who is a fundraising pro doesn’t hurt. Eric is driven, capable and running for Public Advocate. He’s the one to beat for the office. He’s got a future worth watching.
Leroy Comrie, District 27: The Queens consensus builder is the likely frontrunner and Democratic organization choice for Borough President. The office presently occupied by Helen Marshall, a black woman, will see efforts to keep it for a person of color. Comrie is the likely popular choice. He’ll have to demonstrate greater fundraising ability to secure the position as front-runner.
Tom White, Jr., District 28: Tom is the only Queens member who is not term limited having captured the seat from Alan Jennings who was embroiled in scandal. White is the only Council member to return from the original group term limited in 2001. He has surprised many demonstrating greater commitment and diligence than during his first tour. He will be reelected to the Council and Queens’ choice for one of the major leadership positions.
Melinda Katz, District 29: Bright and hardworking, Melinda has her focus on the Comptroller position. A skilled fundraiser with a solid start as Chair of the Land Use committee she is a force to contend with. Although young in appearance and years, her legal experience and decade and a half of public service and political smarts makes her a real serious contender. She’s got a future worth watching.
Dennis Gallagher, District 30: Dennis is the future hope of the Queens Republican party. Bright, shrewd and hardworking, he’s demonstrated an ability to get along with a Democratic majority. He’s an asset to his district and our borough with no place to go. Should Republican Senator Serf Maltese decide to retire, the State Senate G.O.P. will recruit Gallagher to try to hold that seat. As a Republican, he’d be a long-shot if something opens up – perhaps retirement by Assemblyman Tony Seminerio would keep Dennis in play. In Queens he’s just in the wrong party but a real quality public servant.
James Sanders, District 31: Sanders fell into disfavor with the Democratic Organization and is not likely to get help or encouragement for any office. However, he’s likely to take a serious look at challenging Assemblywoman Michelle Titus. She’ll have the Democratic organization, but he’s the harder worker.
Joe Addabbo, Jr., District 32: As the State Senate Dems count where they can pick up the two seats to gain control of the Senate, Joe Addabbo will top the list. He is clearly the strongest candidate against Serf Maltese in 2008 but will likely have to take on a driven and hardworking Albert Baldeo who surprised everyone with a very strong showing for that seat last year. Addabbo will be new Senate Dem Leader Queens’ Malcolm Smith’s first real test. He can’t afford to lose this seat. Addabbo will be the next State Senator from Queens’ 15th District.
There you have it. Out there with 2-˝ years to go. Unless scandal or retirement changes the lay of the land, we’ll pull this out in 2009 and report back.
In the meantime, if you have any inside info or perhaps are gearing up to run for one of those term limited Council seat, reach me at MSchenkler@QueensTribune.com.