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Paterson to call special election to fill Seminerio seat

Gov. David Paterson intends to call a special election to fill the seat vacated by former state Assemblyman Anthony Seminerio, according to an e-mail written by the lawyer for the city Board of Elections.

If Paterson follows through, a wrench would be thrown into the plans of the six contenders running for the seat, who have raised funds and collected petition signatures that would be voided.

“I have just been informed by the governor’s office that Governor Paterson intends to issue a proclamation ... calling a special election to fill the vacancy,” wrote Steven H. Richman, counsel for the city Board, in an e-mail sent July 22 to the board’s commissioners, executive management and legal department.

Ozone Park attorney Albert Baldeo, who has about $150,000 in his campaign account and said he submitted 8,000 signatures in his bid to replace Seminerio, was one of six candidates who anticipated running in a primary election in September and the general election in November.

But under a special election, which according to Richman’s e-mail is expected to be called for Primary Day, the petitioning process would be circumvented with the borough’s party leaders choosing candidates to run.

“I feel that [a special election] abdicates the rights of the voters,” Baldeo said. “This is a violation of the right to vote.”

“Here you’re going against the will of 15,000 people,” he said, referring to the collective number of signatures obtained by the candidates.

Running along with Baldeo are Community District Education Council 24 President and Community Board 9 member Nick Comaianni, Forest Park Senior Citizens Center Executive Director Donna Caltabiano, state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans) aide Lourdes Ventura, CB 5 member Michael Miller and Farouk Samaroo, a former aide to ex-Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin.

Seminerio, who resigned from the Assembly a day before pleading guilty to honest services mail fraud charges, remains as a Democratic district leader and would have influence over who the Democratic Party chooses as its candidate if a special election were held.

A political observer familiar with the race said some party leaders were uncomfortable that they would “have to lobby a convicted felon” to back their preferred candidate.

Queens Democratic sources said a special election would undermine Baldeo, whom they did not perceive as the party’s choice for the seat, according to City Hall News.

But Baldeo said he believed the party would endorse him in the end because of his loyalty and support to the machine’s candidates.

Baldeo came within 8,000 votes of ousting then-state Sen. Serphin Maltese in 2006 and bowed out of a possible rematch in 2008 in favor of then-City Councilman Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach), who went on to win the seat and helped Democrats capture the majority in the Senate for the first time since 1965.

“I paved the way for [Addabbo] to get that seat,” Baldeo said. “I have made good with the party. I’ve done my part for them.”

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.

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