Thursday, December 4, 2008

Succeed Seminerio? Baldeo Waits it Out by Sergey Kadinsky - Serge Kadinsky's Journalism Blog

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Seminerio is facing serious charges, but fellow elected officials are not jumping the gun on his likely future. Charged with corruption, the 16-term assemblyman could face up to 20 years in federal prison. As he ponders a plea deal, no official contender stands to challenge him for his Assembly seat, which he has held since 1978.

“He is on trial and has not been convicted,” said State Senator-elect Joseph Addabbo, Jr. “The party has not commented on his future, pending results of the trial.” Much of Addabbo’s Senate district overlaps Seminerio’s Assembly district, in neighborhoods where Democrats and Republicans have recently faced off in tight contests for State Senate and City Council seats.

In contrast, Seminerio faced no opponents in his latest reelection on Nov. 4, two months after being charged with pocketing $500,000 in payoffs through a phony consulting company that offered favors to organizations doing business with the state. His candidacy was cross-endorsed by the Republican and Conservative parties. In contrast to his Democratic colleagues, Seminerio holds more conservative positions on topics such as abortion, capital punishment, and gay marriage.

Among the possible successors is lawyer Albert J. Baldeo, who narrowly lost to incumbent Serphin Maltese in the 2006 race for state senate. In early 2008, he ran again, but subsequently dropped out to support fellow Democrat Addabbo, who went on to defeat Maltese.

In his law office on Liberty Avenue, photographs show Baldeo shaking hands with a host of prominent elected officials, and awards testify to his experience in community leadership. For now, Baldeo has opted to wait out his options, pending the outcome of Seminerio’s trial. “I will answer the call if Democratic leaders call upon me to run at the appropriate time,” said Baldeo.

At the same time, considering Seminerio’s health and age, the prospect of imprisonment has garnered him some support. “An imprisonment for him would be much harder than for a healthy young man,” said his attorney, Ira Cooper, in an interview with the Daily News.

While the legal woes of an aging incumbent could be a godsend for a young upstart, Baldeo was having none of it. “My heart goes out to him and his family. He has a long serving record of 30 years. He is an institution,” said Baldeo. “I hope the allegations against him are untrue.”

At the same time, Baldeo reports that he has received numerous calls asking when he will declare his candidacy for Seminerio’s seat. “Some say that it is a natural seat for me, and that I am the strongest candidate for that seat,” said Baldeo. “I got 69 percent of the votes in Assemblyman Seminerio’s district when I ran against Senator Maltese in 2006, although Seminerio endorsed Maltese against me.”

Baldeo takes pride in receiving 25 percent of the primary vote against Addabbo even after dropping out, and using his clout to deliver the Senate seat for him in the general election. “That proves that I have a strong base in the district,” said Baldeo.

Should he run, he already has a head start in funding the potential race. “. I have the funds from the Addabbo race available to run against any likely competitors-over $400, 000,” said Baldeo.

“Many tell me that I will be the strongest candidate for this seat.”