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Padavan sworn in after epic election

State Sen. Frank Padavan (R−Bellerose) outlined a bevy of ambitious goals at his swearing−in ceremony Sunday afternoon, including alleviating the state’s fiscal woes, bettering the health care system, cutting costs of living for Queens’ middle−class residents and developing a comprehensive alternative energy plan.

“Serious leadership will be necessary to bring real and lasting solutions for New Yorkers,” Padavan told a crowd of hundreds in Holy Cross High School’s auditorium. “We must root out waste, fraud and abuse and make sure all tax dollars are spent efficiently and wisely.”

Padavan, a 36−year incumbent who was declared the winner in the drawn−out 11th Senate District race Feb. 5, received several standing ovations from hundreds of fans, many of whom said they looked forward to once again working with a lawmaker who puts individuals’ needs above party politics. He defeated City Councilman James Gennaro (D−Fresh Meadows) after a three−month battle over the validity of paper ballots in the Nov. 4 election.

“I was head of the Democrats for Padavan, because whatever your issue is, whoever you are, he dedicates time to you like it’s the most important thing in the world,” said Jamaica Estates resident Maria Collier. “He has always been an amazing advocate for the community.”

State Supreme Court Judge Robert Hanophy performed the actual swearing−in, and numerous community members and activists participated in the ceremony, including Collier, Bayside resident Mandingo Tshaka, Our Lady of the Snows Church Monsignor Raymond Chappetto and Rabbi Michael Ehrlich of Bayside’s Oakland Jewish Center.

“What is a ‘mensch’?” Ehrlich asked. “It’s an individual who, when someone else cries, they taste the salt of their tears. They go out of their way to care. That’s Frank Padavan.”

Padavan drew laughter from the crowd when referring to the prolonged race that is now the second−longest legislative contest in state history, just behind the battle between state Sen. Andrea Stewart−Cousins (D−Yonkers) and former state Sen. Nick Spanos, which was decided after two recounts on Feb. 8, 2005.

“Mark Twain is famous for saying, ‘Rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated,’ ” Padavan said. “That kind of sums up the last few months.”

Padavan and Gennaro accused one another of foul play in the bitter post−election struggle.

The senator said when he returns to Albany, he plans to work with lawmakers on filling the state budget deficit as well as fighting “onerous tax increases on the middle class.”

“The pursuit of a higher education must be affordable,” Padavan continued. “We must develop a comprehensive alternative energy plan. We must fight against dangerous health care cuts. Health care premiums are getting out of sight.”

Allison Padavan, the senator’s daughter, flew in from Spain for her father’s swearing−in and said she was always impressed by the number of Democrats who told her they always voted for her father.

“When I’m going door−to−door campaigning, people don’t know who I am, and I always hear that he’s the only one who answers their problems,” she said. “So many Democrats say they always vote for him because he really helps individuals.”

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e−mail at agustafson@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 174.

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