Thursday, June 10, 2010

Como to Challenge Addabbo for State Senate This Fall

By Conor Greene

This fall’s showdown for the state Senate in the 15th District appears set following former Republican City Councilman Anthony Como’s announcement that he will challenge incumbent Democrat Senator Joseph Addabbo for his seat in Albany.

A report published over the weekend indicated that Como would continue to pursue a job as the new executive director at the Board of Elections instead of challenging Addabbo, who is serving his first term in Albany.

However, Como says he has since been bombarded with phone calls and messages from residents, colleagues, party leaders and elected officials urging him to reconsider and launch a campaign against Addabbo.

“What happened was, they [party leaders] have been asking me to run for quite sometime, and we have been discussing it for quite some time,” said Como on Wednesday. “I made a decision with my wife that it’s best for now, based on my experience with the Board of Elections, to not run and take the position at BOE.”

According to Como, all that changed when word spread that he wasn’t running for Senate.

“All of a sudden, I didn’t expect it, but it started snowballing and my phone was ringing non-stop. I actually got calls from constituents saying they had read the article that I wasn’t running... It was really just overwhelming,” said Como.

Como noted that polls have shown him to be either close to or leading Addabbo at this early point in the race. “I’m the only challenger in the state that is leading the incumbent, and I’m very proud of that. It’s a testament to the hard work I’ve done,” he said.

Como hasn’t run a campaign since Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) defeated him in November 2008, five months after he had won the 30th Council District seat in a special election. His focus over the past few days has been getting his campaign operations up and running again.

“We’re already getting pretty much organized with non-stop meetings and phone calls,” he said. “At this point my law practice is on hold, since this is going to be a full- time campaign.”

He hopes to open a campaign office in Glendale within the next week or so, and plans on eventually opening a second campaign office elsewhere in the district.

“This is not something we’re going to do lackadaisically. This is something that a lot of people have a very important interest in,” he said. “Besides politics, a lot of people want to see change and stop what’s going on in Albany, and they know this is how you do it.”

After serving two terms on the City Council, Addabbo defeated longtime Republican Senator Serf Maltese, who is Como’s political mentor, in 2008. He said Wednesday that he was expecting a challenge all along, whether it be in the primary or general elections.

“No matter who was going to announce against me, I was going to take that person
seriously, and I’m obviously taking this campaign very seriously,” said Addabbo. “I have the opportunity to go into the district and talk about my accomplishments over the last two years with my constituents. I’m proud of the work my staff and I have done, and there is so much more to do, so I’m looking forward to talking about that.”

Addabbo counts among his accomplishments over the past two years the 13 laws he spearheaded that were signed into law, including ones protecting seniors and veterans.

“Many people tell me that is somewhat unheard of for a freshman senator,” he said.

In addition, he says he has fulfilled two major campaign promises by providing a 24- hour, operator staffed hotline so that constituents can “avail themselves of the services of the senate office” around the clock, and by opening two district offices.

“What’s important to me is the local issues that I’ve attended to,” said Addabbo.

Even still, Como will argue throughout the campaign that Addabbo is part of the problem as a member of the Democrat party now in complete control in Albany. He notes that the budget is several months late and says the state is starting to have trouble paying its bills.

“We have Democratic leaders threatening to shut everything down, and that is ridiculous,” he charged, adding that hospitals, senior centers and fire companies have all either closed or are on the chopping block as a result of the political dysfunction.

“It’s gotten to the point where we need to stop it before God forbid it gets to the breaking point, and this is the way to do it. Voters are sending a clear message that enough is enough.”

In response, Addabbo argues that voters need to evaluate incumbents on a “case by case basis.”

He says he has “certainly tried to separate [himself] from the problems that have existed in Albany for decades,” long before he was elected.

“We are going forward as much as we could with ethics reform and campaign finance reform,” added Addabbo. “We have a lot more to do, so as chair of the Elections Committee, I want to clean up elections and the Senate in general, in a more transparent and efficient manner. I see myself as part of the solution, but you can only do so much in two years.”

While both candidates sought to keep the focus on themselves in interviews this week, they did make it clear that they consider themselves the best for the job.

“I make it a principal not to talk about my opponent, but I’ll tell you this: in difficult times, the people deserve a full time Senator who is going to focus full time on the Senate,” said Addabbo. “I gave up my law practice, love this job and think it’s a privilege representing the people in Albany.”

In response to Como’s decision to run after abandoning his push for the BOE job, Addabbo said: “I read all the articles about him going for that position, and whatever his personal decision is for running, he doesn’t have to explain it. I just know what my focus is.”

Said Como: “He’s a good guy, but I just know I can do a better job, and that people believe in me. His campaign came out and started attacking me about backroom politics.

When you have nothing good to say about your candidate, you attack. It’s time to stand up to serious issues and fight for residents again, not only in the 15th District, but to return this state to where it once was.”

There were also rumors that Maspeth businessman Tony Nunziato would challenge Addabbo. However, Nunziato said Wednesday that he is still in discussions with party leaders to determine what is best for everyone.

“Right now, we’re looking at the options of what I’m going to be doing,” he said.

If Como does move forward with the Senate bid, Nunziato will instead once again challenge Assemblywoman Marge Markey (D- Maspeth) in a rematch of the 2008 election. In that case, Nunziato said he would support Como’s campaign against Addabbo.

“I’ll be running for something, that’s safe to say,” said Nunziato. “I work as a team as far as the party, and I’m looking to see what’s best as far as the party.”

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