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Padavan’s lead shrinks in state Senate contest

The slim margin that Republican state Sen. Frank Padavan (R−Bellerose) held over his Democratic challenger, City Councilman James Gennaro (D−Fresh Meadows) grew even narrower last week, leaving Gennaro campaign officials to maintain their candidate will be representing the residents of the 11th Senate District come January and Padavan to say he had “no idea” what the outcome of the ballot count would be.

Following the city Elections Board machine recanvass and count of emergency ballots and votes cast on handicapped accessible machines last Wednesday, Padavan’s lead dropped from 723 votes to 495. Board of Elections officials were still counting the approximately 8,000 paper ballots and residents will not see those results for at least days or possibly weeks, said Evan Stavisky, a Gennaro campaign consultant.

“The count is clearly going to take a while,” Stavisky said. “Once Jim Gennaro began to close the lead, the Republicans shifted tactics and began wholesale challenges of voters. That obviously will slow things down.”

Stavisky criticized the Republicans for questioning the legality of some ballots and said “certainly over 100” out of a couple hundred paper ballots counted have so far been put aside for a court to rule on their validity.

Padavan said it is important to thoroughly examine ballots.

“With regard to so−called affidavit ballots, they have to determine whether the voter is a registered voter and if they are registered in the district in question,” said Padavan, who has served in the Senate for the past 36 years. “That requires a review of the records of the Elections Board and a determination. It will take many more days to count them. It’s a very slow process. Every vote counts in our democracy.”

The vote count is being held at the Queens Elections Board building in Kew Gardens. Present at the count are board personnel, campaign aides and attorneys representing both parties.

While a Gennaro victory is not needed to guarantee the Democrats’ majority in the Senate, which they won for the first time since 1965, it would mean that Senate Minority Leader Malcolm Smith (D−St. Albans) would likely be one vote closer to becoming majority leader.

While Padavan said he does not know “and is not going to start guessing” what the count’s outcome will be, he has said history has shown that his constituents have been willing to split their ticket and vote for Democratic presidents and local Republican officials.

With Democrats outnumbering Republicans by about 3−to−1 in the district, Padavan would have to corner the Democratic support he has drawn over the decades in order to win.

While Democrats have backed Padavan over the past 3 12 decades, Gennaro predicted an influx of Democratic voters would help him topple the incumbent.

Since July, 4,100 district residents registered Democratic, compared to 711 Republicans. In addition, Gennaro has said the enthusiasm surrounding President−elect Barack Obama’s campaign would push residents to vote a straight Democratic ticket.

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