By William Lewis
State Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) will soon begin serving his 38th year in the Senate. For a brief period last year, before Eric Ulrich (R-Rockaway Beach) won a special election for the City Council in the 32nd Council District, Padavan was the only Republican elected official in Queens.
In politics, however, situations can and do change quickly, as they did recently with three Republicans elected to the Council. That now makes four Republican elected officials in Queens, including Padavan.
It is expected that Padavan will be facing a strong challenge next year. It is rumored the Democratic state Senate Campaign Committee is willing to put up a million dollars to finance a strong campaign against Padavan. Although it is not confirmed, there is increased speculation that outgoing Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) will be the Democratic candidate.
Avella has served two terms in office representing the 19th Council District of northeast Queens. On Jan. 1 this office will pass to newly elected Republican Dan Halloran. Avella, instead of running for a third Council term this year, chose to run for mayor in a Democratic primary against city Comptroller Bill Thompson. Although he did not do well in the race, he increased his name recognition and fund-raising capability in addition to building a campaign field operation.
If he does run, all of these things will be put to use against the undefeated Padavan.
Padavan looks upon last year’s contest against Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) as the toughest race he has had so far, with the possible exception of his first race against then-incumbent Sen. Murray Schwartz in 1972. At that time, he won the race by about 10,000 votes, with the Conservative Party vote providing the margin of victory.
Next year, Padavan intends to focus most of his attention on the state budget, particularly on providing funds for education and medical care. He also will support an ethics bill to regulate the outside incomes of members of the state Legislature. He believes the activities of lobbyists and their possible conflicts of interest should also be addressed in reviewing ethical considerations.
Padavan explained his “no” vote concerning the Senate gay marriage bill in the following way. He believes marriage should only be between a man and a woman. For him to have voted in favor of this bill would have been going against more than 5,000 years of Judeo-Christian heritage, he said. This he could not do. There is talk of Democrats who favored the gay marriage bill targeting Padavan’s seat with a massive effort to defeat him.
Conservative Democrats who opposed the gay marriage bill, however, may be helping Padavan in his re-election bid, especially Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. (D-Bronx), who has vowed to bring religious groups into the confrontation on the side of anti-gay marriage proponents.
As we review Padavan’s long tenure in office, we see a man dedicated to his duties in representing the people of his district. Both his local office and Albany staffs move quickly on every constituent problem that comes before them. Padavan attends every community meeting he can or has a staff member do so. He is accessible to the voters of his district. Given the length of time he has served, he has tremendous knowledge about almost every conceivable issue that comes before the state Legislature.
Padavan, in a statement to his constituents about next year’s election, said, “I am hopeful that the people in my district will acknowledge my hard work on their behalf.”
It seems the people in his 11th Senate District have repeatedly acknowledged his efforts by re-electing him during the last 37 years.