Sunday, May 2, 2010

Potential Candidates Start Their Engines by Lisa Fogarty - Queens Chronicle

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Election season is in full swing.

Despite the still-meager number of public announcements that have been made by candidates planning to run for a chance to unseat Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven) and state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach), the air is buzzing with possibility and the names of several potential contenders.

Nick Comaianni, a small business-owner and the president of Community Education Council of District 24, said he is definitely in the running to challenge Miller in the Democratic primary for the 38th District Assembly seat. Comaianni has been down this road before — he attempted to run for the position last year after disgraced Assemblyman Anthony Seminario pleaded guily in a corruption case, leaving the seat suddenly vacant. But the Queens Democratic Party chose Miller as its candidate, cutting Comaianni’s shot short.

“This time around it’s not going to be a select few people deciding for thousands,” he said. “This time let the people decide.”

Comaianni said he remains faithful to the same issues he vowed to work on last year, including helping small business owners and senior citizens and education.

“We stand to lose 8,000 teachers in New York City,” he said. “The Assembly wants to cut that to 4,000. I say there should be no cuts — education is the last thing you want to cut.”

Comaianni, a member of the West Queens Democratic Party, is being supported by Farouk Samaroo, an Army soldier who also ran for the Assembly seat and was vocal in his belief that the special election process was racially biased. Fellow Democrat Albert Baldeo, who also ran last year, could not be reached for comment.

Another familiar player, Donna Caltabiano, who was the Republican pick to challenge Miller, has officially announced her candidacy. Caltabiano is the executive director of the Forest Hills Senior Center and says she knows what the community wants, since seniors at her center hail from all over the district, and that quality of life issues are their biggest concern. “They don’t think anyone is responding to their needs,” she said.

Caltabiano added that every day she sees examples of the government’s misuse of funding. “I see five or six Access-a-Rides coming to pick up five or six seniors. There is a lot of waste.”

While the Queens GOP endorsed Caltabiano, the Queens County Conservative Party got behind Miller, something they’ve done again.

“We unanimously endorsed him in March again,” said Thomas Long,chairman of the Queens Conservatives.

As for the senatorial race, Long said he’s heard quite a few names tossed around as potential Republican candidates who may run against Addabbo, but that nothing is certain. Among them: former Councilman Anthony Como, former 30th District Assembly candidate Anthony Nunziato and Councilman Eric Ulrich.

“I have no intention of being a candidate for office this year,” said Ulrich (R-Ozone Park). “I’m very happy doing my job. I do think Joe will have a tough race — this is a swing district. It’s going to be very challenging for Democrats.”

Ulrich, who is also a local district leader, said several candidates have expressed interest in running against Addabbo and that the Queens GOP will announce a candidate shortly.

Meanwhile, Nunziato said he would keep an eye out on the field, but that he has no plans to run against Addabbo.

Como, however, was far less resistant to the idea.

“I haven’t made up my mind 100 percent, but I’m leaning toward it,” he said.

The attorney and former counsel for state Sen. Serphin Maltese won the June 2008 special election in District 30 and served as councilman until December, when he was defeated by Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village). He said that while his tenure in the council was short, he achieved a great deal.

Among his accomplishments, he said, were starting up the Ridgewood Historical Register after the project had been stalled, helping a constituent keep her home from foreclosure and securing millions of dollars to fund nearly every school in his district.

As of now, no Democratics have been named as possible candidates to challenge either Addabbo or Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer (D-Ozone Park), according to several sources.

Long said he has heard rumors that Rockaway Republican Gerald Sullivan, who ran against Pheffer in 2008, may be interested in challenging her again. Sullivan was unable to be reached for comment or confirmation.