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Political Action: Conservative Party can stay alive with Lazio out of race

In the Fifth Congressional District in northeast Queens and northwest Nassau County, U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside) won a primary initiated by challenger Patricia Maher. It was surprising to some political observers that Maher received about a third of the vote in that election, considering she does not live in the district and therefore has little name recognition there.

She began her campaign late and spent a small amount of money on the race, and much of that was for legal fees since Ackerman took her to court and tried to invalidate her designating petitions for the purpose of removing her from the ballot. She was successful, however, in remaining on the ballot. Maher conducted a grassroots campaign by visiting hundreds of homes of registered Democratic voters in Queens and Nassau.

In the same district’s Republican primary election, Dr. James Milano won a decisive victory over Elizabeth Berney to become the official Republican candidate to face Ackerman Nov. 2 in the general election. Milano also has the Conservative Party endorsement. The final evening before the primary, all the Fifth District congressional candidates had been invited to a candidates forum at a Orthodox Jewish synagogue in Great Neck, L.I. Maher, Milano and Berney attended and spoke to the assembled gathering of more than a hundred people. Ackerman did not attend.

All three candidates were well-received, although the biggest applause of the evening went to Milano when he spoke of his opposition to a mosque being built near the former World Trade Center site.

Turning to the Republican state primary for governor, the state Conservative Party leadership as well as the Queens Conservative Party had strongly endorsed Rick Lazio for governor. It looked like he was going to win since polls showed him at least 12 points ahead of his opponent, Carl Paladino, as recently as a week before the primary.

A week later, however, Paladino scored an upset victory with unofficial returns showing him winning the race by obtaining more than 60 percent of the vote. This created a potentially serious problem for the Conservative Party, since its candidate for governor must receive 50,000 votes Nov. 2 for the party to remain on the ballot during the next four years. If Lazio were running on both the Republican and Conservative party lines, there would be no problem in his getting the needed 50,000 Conservative votes.

Had Lazio remained on the Conservative line, having little or no chance of winning, voters would have been less inclined to vote for the Conservative candidate. Added to this is the fact that Lazio has very little money to run a viable campaign against the well-financed campaigns of Democrat Andrew Cuomo and Republican Carl Paladino. With Lazio withdrawing and accepting a judicial post, it gives Paladino the Conservative line, which was recently confirmed at the Conservative Party convention. This will give Paladino stronger ballot position.

In the 26th Assembly District in northeast Queens, a hard-fought battle for that open seat is emerging between Conservative Republican Vincent Tabone and Democrat Edward Braunstein, who just won the Democratic primary over three other candidates. Likewise earlier this year, Tabone was chosen as the lead candidate by the Republican county executive committee over several other prospective candidates. Both Assembly candidates are known for being aggressive campaigners. They both started their campaigns early this year as they appealed for grassroots support.

In terms of career backgrounds, Braunstein at the age of 29 has been a member of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s (D-Manhattan) staff during the last few years. Tabone at the age of 43 has worked for the Giuliani and Bloomberg administrations in the city Economic Development Corp. He has also worked for the city Department of Housing.

It should be noted that directly above them on the ballot an intense race is going on for the state Senate between incumbent Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) and challenging Democrat and former City Councilman Tony Avella. Padavan is strongly supporting Tabone, while Avella is giving much support to Braunstein.

2010 will be remembered as a key year in the election process.

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