Voter anger, ethical lapses, and the recession are giving New York Republicans a window of opportunity to regain control of the State Senate. In the second installment of her series, NY1 political reporter Erin Billups takes a look at a Queens race that could threaten the GOP's golden opportunity.
A total of 483 votes kept Queens State Senator Frank Padavan in his seat in 2008. Once again, the incumbent faces a contentious fight, this time from a different challenger. The senator says his close call was caused by a presidential election when Democratic voters came out in record numbers.
"The facts I think speak for themselves. Obama got 70 percent of the vote in my district," Padavan said.
Republicans say if Democrats couldn't beat Padavan in '08, they certainly won't beat him in a year when voters are so enraged at leaders in Washington.
"We feel very, very optimistic," Padavan said.
Democrats call the 2008 loss an abberation because the district covers the northeasternmost corner of Queens where Democrats outnumber Republicans 3-to-1.
Still, many residents consider themselves conservative. But challenger Tony Avella says he is too, at least on fiscal matters. The former Democratic city councilman says if voters are looking to change the political culture in Albany, they should start with Padavan.
"People who have been there, like Frank Padavan for 38 years are not going to change anything. Because the system has been corrupted while they've been there," Avella said.
The fight for the 11th Senate District is like several other battles underway. If Avella wins, it could help solidify the Democrats' majority control, which Padavan argues is not change at all.
"We ended up with these two horrible budgets. That's an abuse of power which would not have happened had we had a checks and balance," Padavan said.
Democrats say the district is tilting more and more to the left and they hope this year it will be enough to push Padavan out. But the 38-year incumbent says the numbers are nothing new.
"We've addressed every issue that any part of my district ever had to face from day one and have done that consistently," Padavan said.
Padavan is praised for his constituent work, but Avella says so was he in City Hall. He argues it's Padavan's positions in Albany that need attention -- Padavan supports civil unions, Avella supports gay marriage; Avella is pro-choice, Padavan is not.
"People want change. People want someone who will really reflect their views in Albany. And we're getting the message out that there are two Frank Padavan's," Avella said.