By Eric Yun
Two years ago, Democrats took over then New York State Senate, Assembly and Governorship. Now, with general displeasure at the state of government in Washington D.C. and Albany, state Republicans see a golden opportunity to at least retake the Senate.
One key race in the quest to retake the Senate is in the 15th District between incumbent Joe Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) and Republican challenger Anthony Como.
The 15th District encompasses Forest Hills Gardens, Glendale, Hamilton Beach, Maspeth, Middle Village, Old Howard Beach, Ridgewood, Woodhaven, and parts of Elmhurst, Forest Hills, Kew Gardens, Ozone Park, Rego Park, Richmond Hill, South Richmond Hill and South Ozone Park.
Latest demographic information from the state Board of Elections shows Democrats outnumber Republicans by nearly 50,000 among registered voters. However, the district is not afraid to vote against party lines. A portion of the district elected Republican Eric Ulrich to the City Council in 2008, and Republican Serf Maltese held the 15th Senate seat for 19 years until Addabbo defeated him in 2008.
While party leaders have seen the importance of the race—the New York State Republican Senate Campaign has donated more $100,000 to Como’s campaign—both candidates downplayed the role the race will play in terms of determining which party is in power.
“I’m not looking at it as a Republican or Democrat thing,” Como said. “Incumbents are not doing the jobs they were elected to do.”
Calling the issue “politics going before people,” Addabbo said, “You vote out a person. Don’t vote out a party.”
The anger voters have felt towards Albany has stemmed mostly from the economy. Unemployment is at a record high, and residents are struggling.
Those at fault for the economy, according to Como, are the current legislators in Albany. “They passed the highest spending state budget in history,” he said.
If he gets elected, Como would work immediately to cut taxes and restore services such as School Tax Relief program (STAR). He criticized Albany for their excessive spending, which put them in a position to cut vital programs. There are millions of dollars that could have been saved with Medicaid reform, and he criticized the government’s willingness to spend millions of dollars to give ex-convicts assistance.
“It’s time to bring government back to the people,” Como said.
Addabbo countered that the government had to make difficult choices to balance the budget. “I share their [the voter’s] frustrations,” he said. “Nobody gets elected to raise taxes.” He has worked hard to protect essential services, and he promised as state performs better fiscally, cut programs would be restored.
Addabbo also questioned the notion that electing Republicans would solve New York’s economic woes. He said the Republicans during the previous four years spent recklessly and kept trying to fund programs it did not have money for.
Another issue both candidates felt strongly about was transparency and reform in Albany. Touting his endorsement from former Mayor Rudy Giuliani and support from for- mer Mayor Ed Koch’s New York Uprising, Como believes there is “a lot of work to be done in transparency and reform.”
The Aqueduct negotiations were a prime example of backroom dealings decided by “three men in a room,” said Como. He would fight for term limits in the Senate so voters have an opportunity for change in legislators to bring different voices and ideas. Como would also be at the forefront to bring transparency to the upcoming redistricting process.
Addabbo has also signed on to Koch’s New York Uprising. He believes he and other legislators have already worked to bring more transparency and reform to Albany in two years than the previous Republican senate did in four years. “Republicans the last four years didn’t come close to the reform we have,” Addabbo said. Key reforms included campaign finance reforms and more transparency in legislation.