By Alex Christodoulides
City Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) formally announced his candidacy Friday for the state Senate via a YouTube video and with media events during the weekend, finally acknowledging what local voters have known for months: he is challenging longtime incumbent state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) for his seat in November.
Gennaro said his campaign had released the 86-second video now to capitalize on the period when voters start thinking about elections.
“These things are watched very closely by political and civic culture, but I think it's important to make an announcement to the general populace so they can make an informed choice,” he said. “We've knocked on doors, gone to supermarkets and train stations, so people know, but I thought it was important to make the announcement on the Internet.”
“He's been campaigning since May, so this hardly comes as a surprise,” Padavan said.
In the video, Gennaro urges voters to change the state Senate's leadership by electing him in November, saying Republicans have held the majority for generations, but failed to serve Queens' working families — especially in areas such as fiscal fairness, education and transit funding.
As chairman of the Council's Environmental Protection Committee, Gennaro has authored laws on green issues such as promoting alternative energy, reducing greenhouse gases and keeping the city's drinking water clean.
“I'm happy I've been able to establish myself in the last seven years as one of the most thoughtful, proficient legislators on the Council. I've passed more bills than anyone on the Council, and this is something I'd bring to Albany,” Gennaro said. “I'm an independent voice. Nobody tells me what to do. I've taken on the mayor, and Frank Padavan is the mayor's puppet.”
Padavan scoffed at the councilman's allegations.
“It's totally false. I've been a leader in Albany in education for decades,” the senator said. “We produce results like getting $3.3 billion in state aid. I've led the state's capital funding program, and I'm endorsed by the United Federation of Teachers. My record on education is unparalleled.”
As of July 15, the most recent deadline to file campaign finance disclosure statements with New York state, Gennaro had raised $615,246.35 and Padavan $154,791.81, a four-to-one margin.
But Padavan has the name recognition one would expect of a 36-year incumbent, compared to Gennaro's eight years on the City Council.
Padavan pointed out that he chaired the state Senate's Mental Hygiene and Addiction Control Committee for 10 years, helped create the Quality Care Commission for the Mentally Disabled, the Community Residence Site Selection Law, and backed Timothy's Law, which abolishes limits on the amount of insurance coverage provided for mental health and substance abuse services.