With money and Sampson on his side, return candidate forces Queens Democrats to consider Plan BEven as they fight over who should take over Anthony Seminerio’s seat, most of those involved seemed to have reached consensus on who they do not want to see replace the Assemblyman who resigned before pleading guilty to fraud.
“I think one thing everyone can agree on is that nobody wants Al Baldeo,” said one Queens Democrat. “It’s hard to see a scenario where he would be the party’s choice.”
Albert Baldeo, a lawyer and Guyanese immigrant, has already run for Council and the State Senate—almost unseating Republican Serf Maltese in a massive surprise in 2006, and then bowing out of a primary against Joseph Addabbo for the seat in 2008. All three races had more than enough headline fodder.
Baldeo feels his latest campaign is starting off strong, with over $146,000 in the bank and nearly four times the necessary number of petition signatures.
And he already has landed a big endorsement, claiming Senate Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson, who helped convince Baldeo to drop his primary big against Addabbo last August. Selvena Brooks, a Sampson spokesperson, confirmed the endorsement.
Baldeo said he plans to roll out more endorsements soon. This is all part of his strength as a candidate, he explained.
“None of the candidates have ever run a race,” Baldeo said of his competitors. “That separates me from them because of name recognition.”
Several other Democratic candidates have also announced their candidacies to represent the diverse district, which contains Latino, Guyanese and Italian communities.
Lourdes Ventura, Senate President Malcolm Smith’s (D-Queens) counsel for Latino and immigrant affairs, had been planning to petition for the seat but did not file paperwork. Farouk Samaroo, an Iraq war vet, also announced. District 24 Community Education Council president Nick Comaianni and Community Board 5 member Michael Miller have filed petitions, which have already been challenged.
On the Republican side, Donna Marie Catalbiano, director of the Forest Park Senior Citizen Center, has already gotten the GOP endorsement, with the party feeling confident in its chances for a pick-up.
For now, most of Queens political players are biding their time rather than getting behind one candidates.
But support may be starting to coalesce around Miller, who has worked in the community as a salesperson with Coldwell Banker Kueber Realty. Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, whose district overlaps with the Assembly district, has endorsed Miller, which might be taken as a signal of where her cousin, Queens Democratic Chair Rep. Joseph Crowley, is headed.
“The guy to watch out for there is Mike Miller,” predicted a Queens political insider not yet affiliated with any of the candidates. “Miller’s the guy who has probably the strongest support from within the district of anybody.”
Miller has also drawn the support of the Queens Conservative Party, guaranteeing him at least one ballot line in the election.
“He espoused some or most of the philosophy of the Conservative Party, and he’s been active in the community for a long time in many civic organizations and the Gowanus organization,” said Queens Conservative Party Chairman Tom Long, who also interviewed Comainni and Catalbiano for the endorsement.
Currently, the seat is slated to go up for election along with the city races on Sept. 15 and Nov. 3. But things might get complicated: Gov. David Paterson has the power not to wait for those elections and act on the vacancy, calling a special election to take place sometime before the November elections. If that happens, there is speculation that Baldeo may not meet the State Constitution’s one-year residency requirement and be disqualified from running until the seat comes up again in next year’s election cycle.
A special election may occur if the party organizations, unhappy with the mix of candidates that survive petitioning, ask Paterson to call for one. TA special election might take place on the same day as the regular elections in November, but would operate under a different set of rules that tosses the petitions and gives each party's county committee the power to choose a candidate for the general election. The governor could make that decision at any time ahead of the elections.
Or, in the words of one Queens politician considering all the various scenarios running up against each other, “It’s in a state of controlled flux.”