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Boro’s long-shot seats ignored by state GOP

New York’s state Republican leadership made a calculated decision not to run candidates in a number of Queens races, several Queens Republican operatives said in the final week before Tuesday’s primary election.

The state Republican Party identified seats throughout the state that it found to be viable and poured resources into those races while ignoring districts party leaders saw as long shots, according to Steve Stites, communications director for City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone).

“There are some winnable seats for Republicans in Queens, so the leadership has decided to focus time, resources and energy on the seats that they see as winnable for a Republican rather than go into areas that are seen as Democratic strongholds,” he said.

A seat Stites identified as “winnable” is the one held by state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach). A first-term Democrat in a conservative area of the borough, Addabbo is ripe to be beaten by a well-backed candidate, so the Republican Party leadership has worked diligently to prop up Anthony Como’s campaign, he said.

A seat like the one held by Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) is seen as nearly invulnerable to GOP challengers, Republican consultants agree, and so the party is not backing a candidate in that race

“In [Stavisky’s district,] you’d have to be a remarkable Republican,” said James McClelland, chief of staff for Councilman Peter Koo (R-Flushing). “The demographics so favor Democrats they don’t want to put anyone in there.”

Alex Carey, a spokesman for the state Republican Party, declined to comment.

Another key reason for focusing large amounts of staff and money in a few select districts rather than spreading them evenly throughout is the political realities in Albany.

Republicans need only take two Senate seats from the Democrats in order to seize the chamber for their side. As such, the focus is on holding their existing seats, such as the one Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) has occupied for more than two decades, and pumping resources into the campaigns of a few strong candidates in districts where the odds favor the GOP.

“It’s a bit of both. For instance, Sen. Padavan has a strong race this year and they know they need to hold onto him. For them to have any chance of winning the Senate back, they know Padavan has to win, so they’re going to divert resources, funds and consultants toward Padavan to make sure he’s strong,” Stites said. “Anthony Como is a priority guy, but he is probably one rung below Padavan .... Padavan needs to win because of his position as a seminal figureand as an incumbent.”

One more reason state Republican leaders targeted certain races this year rather than spreading funds across the state was purely economic. Since the economy slowed two years ago, campaign dollars have been more precious than ever, according to McClelland.

“They weren’t going to just support anybody because in this economic climate money’s hard to come by both with bodies and money, so they made some calculated decisions about what candidates are viable,” he said.

State Republican leaders primarily focused on Senate races because they need far more wins to take back the state Assembly than to capture the Senate, Stites said.

“The Republicans would love to pick up a few (Assembly) seats in Queens, but it’s not near as large a priority as in the Senate, where the Democrats have only a two-seat majority,” he said. “If the Republicans can pick up two seats in the Senate, that’s worth 20 seats in the Assembly, and probably more.”

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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