By William Lewis
This year is bringing on some competitive races in Queens, with Democratic Party primaries against organization candidates including a challenge to state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) in the 16th Senate District, an area that includes parts of Bayside, Whitestone, Fresh Meadows and Rego Park.
Toby Stavisky has served in the Senate since 1999, when she replaced her late husband, Leonard Stavisky, who had served in that legislative body for 16 years. Toby Stavisky has never lost a primary or general election during her political career. Her last primary challenge was two years ago, when Robert Schwartz ran against her. He received about 34 percent of the vote in that primary. He may run again this year. Presently he has Conservative Party endorsement.
A Democratic challenger this year in the 16th Senate District is Isaac Sasson, who holds a doctorate in chemistry. He has taught at Queens College for 15 years. He has also served as the director of development for the Institute of Cancer Prevention at Einstein Medical College, but most of his career has been spent at the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center working in cancer research.
At the local level, he has been a member of Community Board 7 and has also served as the president of the Holly Civic Association. Sasson said the reason he is running is to help restore faith in our Albany legislative leadership and rid the public image that some voters have of our legislative leaders being dysfunctional. In terms of his main priorities, Sasson believes taxes are too high and have reached the point where citizens cannot afford to pay them. He wants to offer tax incentives to small businesses so they can hire more people.
As to how he will conduct his office in comparison to Toby Stavisky, who in the past has had one legislative district office in the 16th Senate District, Sasson has indicated he will open at least three district offices for his constituents in addition to constantly attending local civic meetings, where he can hear complaints and suggestions from the residents of his Senate district as to how to improve government services.
As for the immediate political campaign itself, Sasson intends to conduct an active race and meet the people of his district personally. He further indicated that the residents of the 16th Senate District whom he has spoken with seem interested in cutting state taxes and fees. They also want improvements in transportation and an end to political corruption.
Sasson stressed he will not be beholden to any special interest groups. The state Legislature that is being elected this year will be responsible for redistricting in time for the 2012 state elections for the Senate and state Assembly. Sasson wants that important task done by a non-partisan group rather than the Legislature itself. He also favors term limits.
In his statement of political goals, he said, “I am running to do a job that the present state Senate is not doing. I want to stop our Legislature from being referred to as dysfunctional and corrupt. My being elected will send a message that our elected representatives answer to the people and not to the lobbyists.”
On the Republican side in the 11th Senate District, which is next to the 16th Senate District, Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) is not facing a Republican primary, but is considered to have a strong Democratic opponent for the fall election. That is former City Councilman Tony Avella, who ran for mayor last year in a Democratic primary against former city Comptroller William Thompson. He received 21 percent of the primary vote citywide.
Avella has significant name recognition in northeast Queens after having served on the Council in the 19th Council District for eight years. Padavan, who won his race two years ago by 480 votes, is taking no chances. His campaign headquarters has opened on Bell Boulevard in Bayside and he is actively campaigning.
The battle for which political party will control the Senate next year is on. Both major political parties will be putting a lot of manpower and resources into the 11th and 16th Senate races in 2010.