By Conor Greene
The field of candidates seeking the state Assembly seat vacated by Anthony Seminerio continues to grow, as at least six local residents have announced their intentions to run for the seat representing the 38th District.
After holding the position for three decades, a disgraced Seminerio resigned on June 22. Two days later, he admitted in Manhattan Federal Court to accepting illegal payment from individuals seeking to do business with the state. Barring a special election, his successor will be chosen during November’s general election.
Among those vying for the Democrat nomination are Ozone Park attorney Albert Baldeo, Community Education Council 24 President Nick Comaianni, combat veteran Farouk Samaroo, Community Board 5 member Michael Miller and Queens College student Paul Gagliardotto. The lone Republican is Donna Marie Catalbiano, director of the Forest Park Senior Citizen Center.
Baldeo, who came within 700 votes of defeating then State Senator Serf Maltese in 2006, said he has raised about $167,000 so far in support of his assembly bid. He noted that he received 70% of votes in the Richmond Hill portion of the district in 2006, even though Seminerio publicly endorsed and aggressively campaigned for Maltese. “That helps me because I’ve worked in the district before and have the name recognition,” said Baldeo.
Baldeo listed stopping overdevelopment, preventing MTA fare hikes and service cuts, creating a specific zip code for Glendale and preserving the Ridgewood Reservoir in its natural state among his major issues. “These are the issues I’ve been championing,” he said. “I’ve gotten an enormous groundswell of support from all over the district because of my continuous work on issues that affect these areas.”
He said that he has lived in the district for more than a year, meaning he meets the residency requirements to run for the Assembly seat. Last year, he launched a bid for the Democratic nomination to challenge Maltese for his State Senate position. However, he eventually dropped out of the race, clearing the way for Joseph Addabbo, who defeated Maltese in a landslide. “I did that for the greater good of the party and don’t have any regrets,” he said. “It was a heart-wrenching decision then, but I’m ready for this one now and have laid the groundwork.”
It turns out Baldeo isn’t the only native of Guyana to join the fray. Samaroo, of Richmond Hill, recently announced his candidacy and is returning home after serving 12 months with the Army in Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. Prior to enlisting in the Army, he worked in 2003 for former Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin, who was sentenced in May to 10 years in prison for stealing $3.1 million. He also worked on the 2006 campaign of State Senator Shirley Huntley.
“My experience in the Legislature, and on the battlefield make me uniquely qualified to serve the people of our neighborhoods,” said Samaroo. “We deserve an Assemblyman who will serve us with honor, experience and skill… Our Assemblyman resigned in disgrace, the state Legislature is failing us, and our country needs the service of committed young men and women to lead at all levels of government.”
Also throwing his hat into the ring is Miller, a Glendale resident who, aside from his CB 5 duties, is a board member of the Glendale Civilian Observation Patrol, a past board member of the Greater Ridgewood Youth Council and a past president of the Glendale Kiwanis. He is a graduate of Archbishop Molloy High School, Queens College and the University of Georgia CUNA Management School.
“With all the dysfunction in Albany today, we obviously need leaders who aren’t afraid to stand up to the status quo and fight for us,” said Miller. “I will be a full time representative of my district. For over 20 years, I have proven my commitment to my neighbors and my community. In the New York State Assembly, you can count on me to continue the service to this community that has defined my life.”
Among Miller’s prior accomplishments are helping to expand the Greater Ridgewood Youth Council from “a small neighborhood group to an organization with 180 employees that serves 6,000 people each year.” He has also been awarded numerous citations from the Glendale Civilian Observation Patrol and the NYPD for his anti-graffiti efforts. He was recently endorsed by the Queens Conservative Party.
“I am proud of my work removing and painting over graffiti in my community, leading area clean-ups before it was popular with politicians and supervising prisoners assigned to work in our community,” said Miller, who also founded the Forest Park Aktion Club, a Kiwanis club for adults with mental disabilities.
One of the first to announce his candidacy was Comaianni, who, aside from serving as CEC 24 president, is a member of Community Board 9, the Glendale Civic Association and the Forest Park Co-op board of directors. A U.S Navy veteran, the 41-year-old father of three coaches at the RGMVM Little League and is a lifelong resident of district 38.
“I have dedicated a great portion of my life to community service and feel that I am qualified to serve in the New York State Assembly, where I can continue to work and have a greater impact on the quality of life in the community in which I reside,” he said in a statement. “I am like every other New Yorker who is upset with the dysfunction currently in Albany. If elected, I will go to Albany to foster changes, to limit special interest involvement in government and to fight for transparency. I will oppose taxes, try to restore some of the sanity in the budget process and put the interests of the community first and foremost.”
Gagliardotto is among the latest to declare his candidacy, which he did in an email sent Tuesday night to local media outlets. A lifelong district resident who grew up in Ozone Park, he now lives in Glendale and says he is “the only candidate who can truly bring the understanding of the entire district to Albany.”
The 23-year-old is a graduate of PS 60, IS 119 and Forest Hills High School and is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in political science with a minor in labor studies. “From Ridgewood to Ozone Park I have friends and relatives that span the entire 38th district,” said Gagliardotto. “They are constantly expressing their thoughts and concerns to me looking for guidance. I help them and now I want to extend my hand to all residents.”
Among his priorities would be affordable healthcare for all residents, education, preserving parks and recreational areas, lowering taxes and making sure working class constituents receive appropriate living wages.
The lone Republican, Catalbiano, said this week that her campaign has been going “non- stop” since she announced that she is running. “Even though we haven’t officially started fundraising, people have been sending checks which is building my spirits. “We’ve been calling people non-stop and I’m pounding the pavement to get my face known in areas that I might not be as well known.”
Catalbiano, who received the backing of the Queens Republican Party, is also hoping to receive the Independence Party’s support. On top of her 14 years at the senior center, she boasts a civic record that includes spearheading the push for an expansion at PS 64, which came to fruition in 1991. “I think the community needs a person like me. Over the years I have many accomplishments,” she said. “We have our forces ready and we’re giving it our best shot.”