Saturday, May 16, 2009

Dems Keep Up the Pressure on Padavan by Peter C. Mastrosimone - Queens Chronicle

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The campaign finally ended when the votes were officially tallied three months after the election, but the animosity between Republican state Sen. Frank Padavan and the Democrats who came closer than ever to unseating him remains.

Padavan won his 19th term by less than 500 votes of the more than 90,000 that were cast in the race between him and Democratic City Councilman James Gennaro of Fresh Meadows.

After the state budget vote, the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee sent out a mailer criticizing Padavan for voting no, as all Republican members of the Senate did. The flier cited several areas for which the budget increased funding, such as higher education and services for the elderly.

The mailer incensed Padavan enough so the senator wrote a letter to this newspaper outlining his reasons for voting against the budget. Those were mainly the tax hikes it contains, which the Democrats say will only impact the wealthy, and the secrecy in which it was crafted —the “three men in a room” system for which the state government is frequently criticized.

But now there’s a new issue on the table: a letter Padavan wrote to the judge who will sentence former Democratic Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin in his corruption and perjury case.

In full, the letter reads, “Dear Judge Sullivan: While I have no direct knowledge of the legal matters involving Brian McLaughlin, I have known Brian for over [two] decades. I worked closely with him in advancing important legislation in the Senate and Assembly. In addition, I have know[n] Brian to be a dedicated community servant, an active member of his parish and a loving father.”

Democrats such as Shams Tarek, the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee spokesman who had been an aide to Gennaro, see the letter as a plea for leniency.

Padavan’s camp points out that the letter does not actually ask for leniency. But the Democrats say that even without those words, the missive is by definition a request to go easy on McLaughlin.

“The fact is ... these types of letters are done as a favor to the convicted and an attempt to get leniency in sentencing no matter how vague the language,” Tarek said.“And what makes this case most egregious is the severity of the corruption that’s being excused here, and the fact that no other elected official in the entire state chose to do what Senator Padavan did here.”

The assertion that no other politician wrote such a letter could not be confirmed.

Padavan dismissed it all as mudslinging.

“Once again the DSCC is distorting the facts for their political agenda,” an aide said on the senator’s behalf. “This is just a continuation of their lies from the fall campaign. The simple fact of the matter is that the letter doesn’t ask for leniency, and to suggest otherwise is wrong.”

Democrats said they were further angered by the fact the letter was sent using Padavan’s official Senate letterhead.

Could all this mean a rematch between Padavan and Gennaro in 2010? The councilman said he intends to run for re-election to the City Council this year and has no electoral plans beyond that. The senator said, “Absolutely,” when asked whether he’ll seek a 20th term.

The McLaughlin letter aside, much of the debate this week, during the last campaign and during the vote count comes down to basic Republican and Democratic philosophies on economics and the proper role of government — though with a particularly sharp tone. Padavan’s won race after race from the conservative side of that debate, but the Democrats have the momentum and won Senate control last fall from the liberal side. The people will make their decision again in 18 months.