By William Lewis
State Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) was first elected to the Senate in 1972. He won by a significant margin, which was somewhat surprising at the time since both Republican candidates for state Assembly and Congress running in the same area of northeast Queens were defeated by narrow margins. Since that time, Padavan has become a political icon in terms of the respect and support he has received from the electorate.
The recent election results in Padavan’s 11th Senate District were generally not expected, considering that national trends throughout the country seemed to favor Republican candidates. In Queens, however, a similar situation was developing that occurred in 2008, when the Democrats had a much stronger candidate at the top of the ticket than the Republicans. Then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, running for president, helped local Democratic candidates everywhere in Queens, including the race in the 11th Senate District, where Padavan barely won by 480 votes.
This year there can be little doubt that the presence of Carl Paladino at the top of the Republican and Conservative ballots running for governor against Democrat Andrew Cuomo hurt local Republican candidates, including Padavan. This brings up the possibility that had Suffolk County Executive Steven Levy been running as the Republican candidate for governor instead of Paladino, the results of the elections in Queens would have been different, since Levy had a record of past election successes and accomplishments in office.
The Republican state convention in June, however, chose Rick Lazio as its candidate for governor, who then lost the Republican primary to Paladino. This led us to the present situation that weakened the Republican slate.
The fact that a proposition regarding term limits was on the ballot and the people voted overwhelmingly in favor of term limits for office holders elected to city government had an effect on Padavan’s vote totals, since most voters were mindful of the fact that he had served 38 years in office and was now running to serve for more than 40 years. There have been other examples of longevity in office, one major example being Democratic U.S. Rep. Emanuel Celler, who was first elected from Brooklyn in 1922 and then proceeded to serve 50 years in Congress until 1972, when he was defeated by Elizabeth Holtzman in a Democratic Party primary. His age and many years in office were issues in that campaign.
This year seems to be the first time a Padavan opponent — in this case, Tony Avella — made an issue out of Padavan’s lengthy service in office and called for his removal based on his being in office too long. This year, that argument carried a lot of weight with term limits on the ballot.
These things, in addition to the fact that Padavan was running against a candidate who had served two terms in the City Council and last year had also run in a Democratic primary for mayor, gave Avella considerable name recognition. Like Padavan, Avella was also knowledgeable about city and state government legislative matters.
Padavan waged an active campaign, but he also had to deal with matters that did not influence past races as they did this year.
In the 26th Assembly District, which includes Bayside, Whitestone, Douglaston, Little Neck and eastern Flushing, Republican County Executive Vice Chairman Vince Tabone lost to Democrat Ed Braunstein, who weeks before had won the Democratic primary against three other candidates.
Tabone indicated that the governor’s race with Paladino leading the Republican ticket had an adverse effect on Queens Republican candidates. He also believed that had Levy headed their slate, Republicans would have done much better.
Tabone further said, “The voters made it clear that they wanted honor and integrity in those who serve in state government. They also want pro-growth and pro-job policies adopted. Everyone running this year seemed to favor these positions, but the Democrats in Queens were able to prevail.”
Next year, aside from the election of district attorney and some judgeships, there will be no major contests for public office in Queens. It is expected that major political party organizations will be preparing for the presidential and other important elections of 2012.