Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Official Counts Begin in 11th State Senate District by Matt Hampton - Queens Chronicle

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While James Gennaro is trailing incumbent Frank Padavan in preliminary counts, he hopes to make up the difference on paper ballots. (courtesy of Gennaro campaign)

Queens’ 11th Senatorial District may be days or even weeks away from figuring out who its senator will be for the next two years. At the close of voting last Tuesday night, a slim 723-vote margin separated the incumbent, state Sen. Frank Padavan, from his challenger, City Councilman James Gennaro.

That 723-vote separation is the result of the provisional vote count, which the Board of Elections issues after every contest as a way for campaigns to declare victory or concede defeat.

But when the margins are close, both sides have to wait for the paper ballots to come in, as is the case between Padavan and Gennaro this year.

More than 8,000 paper ballots were used for the election, encompassing emergency ballots, absentee ballots, and affidavit ballots. That number represents almost 10 percent of the total number of votes cast in the race for the 11th Senatorial District. Because the outstanding votes are so many and the margin is so slim, neither side has been willing to do anything but wait on the paper.

Evan Stavisky, the spokesman for Gennaro’s campaign, said on Tuesday the campaign expects Gennaro to pick up a substantial number of the paper ballots — especially affidavit ballots, given to newly registered voters like recent citizens or people who recently moved.

“Those ballots are overwhelmingly going to favor Jim Gennaro for two main reasons,” Stavisky said. “Younger voters and new Americans are certainly voting Democratic in this year’s election.”

At Gennaro’s election night party in Bayside, the candidate seemed confident that the count of non-machine ballots would break his way, saying “we certainly make it up on the paper.”

The fight over which of the paper ballots are counted will be fierce, with Republicans having lost their majority in the state Senate for the first time since 1965. Both sides will be clawing for every conceivable vote.

Padavan, who has been in the Senate since 1972, was seen as an oppressively popular candidate to run against, given his 35-plus years of incumbency and popularity among his constituents. Padavan recently bragged in the Queens Chronicle that he had seen lawn signs for himself and Barack Obama together on the same property.

Gennaro, however, ran a well-funded campaign, and attacked some of Padavan’s areas of weakness, including having a pro-life record in a district that is seen as overwhelmingly Democratic and pro-choice.

In other areas of the borough, voters coming out to vote a straight Democratic line helped unseat long-term incumbent Republican Serphin Maltese. Republican City Councilman Anthony Como, of Middle Village, was a hard-luck loser after being forced out by Democrat Elizabeth Crowley with only a few months in office under his belt.

For the 11th District, the real serious business begins today, with the counting of every paper ballot. It’s a process which will be overseen by lawyers from both sides and independent observers, and could take weeks, or even months, depending on how contentious both sides become.

The official machine count, which supersedes provisional numbers that have thus far been released, took place Wednesday, Nov. 12. The results of that count were not available as of press time.

Stavisky said the Gennaro campaign is confident the official machine count would bear out numbers that were much closer than the provisional count.
Padavan’s office did not acknowledge attempts to get a comment before deadline on Wednesday.