Monday, January 19, 2009

UP FOR GRABS: Special Election Set for Addabbo’s Council Seat by Pete Davis - The Queens Courier

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It’s off to the races in south Queens with the special election to replace former City Councilmember turned State Senator Joseph Addabbo only seven weeks away.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg called for the special election in the 32nd City Council District to take place on Tuesday, February 24, and there is no shortage of candidates actively seeking the position to replace Addabbo.

At least seven candidates - former teacher and real estate executive Sam Di Bernardo, City University of New York (CUNY) professor Geraldine Chapey, retired NYPD Lieutenant Glenn DiResto, Community Board 6 District Manager Frank Gulluscio, businessperson Michael Ricatto, Democratic District Leader Lew Simon and Republican District Leader Eric Ulrich - have all expressed interest in the seat, and the campaigning is expected to intensify during the upcoming weeks.

While each of the candidates has a close connection and affinity to different neighborhoods inside the 32nd Council District, the special election is very different from a normal campaign starting with the shorter campaign season.

“There are so many variables that are going to come in, it’s going to come down to the person with the best pull operation and the best name recognition,” said Gulluscio, who many pundits deem the favorite after he received Addabbo’s endorsement for the seat.

All candidates are required to file 1,100 signatures - equal to five percent of the total votes cast in the 32nd City Council District during the last gubernatorial election - with the city’s Board of Elections (BOE) by midnight on January 15 in order to get their name on the ballot.

“We’re out there pounding the pavement trying to get the ample signatures,” said DiResto, who already has been told that another candidate plans to challenge his signatures.

If the BOE approves the candidates’ signatures, his name will appear on the ballot regardless of party affiliation - something very different from a general election where a candidate’s name is listed next to a political party. All of the candidates on the ballot will be listed as an Independent in the special election.

“It’s a great time,” said Ulrich, who said his campaign has been preparing for the race for nearly eight months is very happy with its position. “It’s very exciting. Everyone has worked very hard, and now we are going to see the fruits of our labor.”

Meanwhile, another element of the short campaign is fundraising, and Ulrich and Gulluscio lead the way in fundraising filed with the city’s Campaign Finance Board (CFB) - something required for the candidates to receive matching public funds. DiResto and Simon have both filed the paperwork with the CFB, but as of July 15, 2008 - the last reporting period - neither candidate reported any money raised.

If the candidates meet certain fundraising thresholds, they can qualify for a maximum of $88,500 in public funds from the CFB for the special election.

Ricatto, the newest addition to the already crowded field, said he planned to run for the seat in November expecting former State Senator Serphin Maltese to defeat Addabbo. However, the President of Ricatto Enterprises - which consists of seven different business interests - believes that his district and the city need his leadership and business acumen to help with the continued financial crisis.

“I think I could do an excellent job as a businessman with a businessman’s outlook in helping the city get over this rough time,” Ricatto said.