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Group challenging Joe Addabbo for senate wants to elect a progressive candidate

Photo: Mark Hallum/QNS

According to a press release circulated Monday, a new political group Joe’s Gotta Go is eyeing state Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr.’s office. Literally. They even went so far as to list his district office’s address as theirs on their press materials because the grassroots group is not centrally located.

“We’ll have Joe’s address one day, hopefully,” they tweeted.

The group is seeking out candidates to primary Addabbo, the six-term senator who has never faced a Democratic challenger since entering office after beating out Republican incumbent Serphin Maltese in 2008.

Jeff Griffin, a former Addabbo staffer, is leading the organization alongside with members of Rockaway Revolution. According to Griffin, they have been reaching out to political groups across the district to build a coalition and take suggestions on potential candidates.

“I am pleasantly surprised at how this is going,” said Griffin, who added that the group’s Twitter inbox was overflowing with grassroots support after they went live. “I really do think we’re going to find a candidate before 2020.”

The organization listed a number of political priorities that they feel Addabbo has not upheld including “unequivocal support” of a green new deal, abortion rights, disavowing campaign donations from the real estate, criminal justice reform and cooperation with the city to combat homelessness and school segregation.

The group’s reason for targeting Addabbo is that they believe in him to be an unreliable source of support for progressive legislation. Griffin said that in the event that Democrats are able to flip more three Senate seats in 2020 and achieve a supermajority capable of overturning Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s veto, he sees Addabbo as a potential impediment to getting certain progressive bills through.

The lopsided stretch of Senate District 15 extends from Maspeth through Ozone Park and Howard Beach to the western tip of the Rockaways. Among Democrats up to now, the political consensus has been that the district has been too conservative to challenge from the left. 

“The electorate is changing quite a bit,” Griffin said. “I think that people are relying on outdated, conventional wisdom.”

Though Addabbo never caucused with the now-defunct Independent Democratic Caucus, this past year he did turn heads when he became the only Democrat, apart from the renegade Senator Simcha Felder, not to vote for legislation expanding abortion rights. 

Ultimately the Democratic senate majority did not need Addabbo’s vote to pass the legislation. But Addabbo did say that in addition to his objection over parts of the bill’s language that there was an electoral calculus in his decision to appeal to his more conservative swing voters. In June, Addabbo told City & State that it was popular in his district to vote against the Reproductive Health Act.

Out of the legislation the Addabbo has introduced himself, one of his biggest pushes has been for the legalization of mobile sports betting and other gaming-related laws as the chair of the Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee. This past year, he also introduced a law that established an annual day of remembrance throughout all city public schools each Sept. 11. 

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