NY TIMES ACKNOWLEDGES BALDEO'S STRENGTH IN DIVERSE SECTIONS OF STATE SENATE DISTRICT OVER BOTH ADDABBO & MALTESE
The absence of political empowerment and representation in Richmond Hill/Ozone Park's growing economic base was highlighted by the New York Times in an article focusing on the upcoming State Senate battle for control of the state legislature by Democrats and Republicans. Referring to State Senate candidate and lawyer Albert Baldeo's groundbreaking candidacy, and how this district will be the lynch pin that determines whether democrats seize back control of the State Senate for the first times since 1965, the leading newspaper spotlighted the heavy demographic changes and economic contribution brought by new Americans, such as Guyanese, South Asian, Asian, Caribbean and Latin American immigrants. It also acknowledged how Baldeo almost defeated the long term incumbent State Senator Serphin Maltese, who was unchallenged since 1988, without any institutional backing from the Democratic political machinery, thereby putting this community on the political map as a political and economic force which can no longer be slighted.
The Times reported that the district spans working-class Queens, from Howard Beach in the south to Richmond Hill, now home to Punjabis, Surinamese and West Indians, among others, in the middle to Woodside, a neighborhood long home to the largest Irish community in Queens, which now boasts a sizable Asian population.
In 1990, 83 percent of the district’s residents identified themselves as white, according to census data analyzed by the Queens College department of sociology. By 2000, that number had dropped to 63 percent. The foreign-born population of the district jumped to 39 percent from 29 percent during that time, according to the data, with the largest increase among Hispanics.
When asked about the article, Baldeo said, "I am a mere vehicle for justice and change, an advocate for the people. Our community-from the hard work we have done, from the taxes we pay, from the sacrifices we have made-has earned the right to political recognition. It is time that our community gets its fair share of resources in education, health care, jobs, wages, housing, government services, preserving the environment and public safety. We must all become citizens, register to vote and take an active part in civic and community affairs and lead exemplary lives. I will work hard for all constituents, regardless of race, religion or locality, because we are all taxpayers facing common problems. There is no room for partisan politics or marginalizing other districts in our agenda for change," the popular community activist said.
“There has been a groundswell of support for my campaign. It will clearly be a much stronger campaign than last time,” Mr. Baldeo said in the interview. “The demographics have been changing from Maspeth to Middle Village to Ozone Park. These massive changes are toward minority, new-American immigrants, people of color, and they will all rally around me because I will be there for them no matter what and will always be a part of them.”
Of the half-dozen or so incumbent Republican State senators whom Democrats are singling out for defeat this year, Mr. Maltese is No. 1 on the list. A conservative Republican who has represented the overwhelmingly Democratic western part of Queens for almost two decades, Mr. Maltese has rarely faced a tough re-election. His supporters have been mostly “old-line Democrats” with Italian, Irish and Polish bloodlines and conservative leanings.
But Mr. Spitzer’s departure had a ripple effect, elevating Lt. Gov. David A. Paterson, a Democrat, to governor and allowing the Senate majority leader, Joseph L. Bruno, to take over as presiding officer of the Senate while maintaining his Senate leadership position. That means Democrats are now two seats away from a majority. And Mr. Maltese is a marked man.
“My staff says they want to buy me a T-shirt with a big target on the back,” Mr. Maltese joked. “But if my seat is a target, Joe said he will allocate over a million dollars,” he said, referring to Mr. Bruno. “He said we will spend whatever it takes.”
In New York politics, truces between Democrats and Republicans in some districts have resulted in incumbents’ going unchallenged for long stretches. Mr. Maltese enjoyed such an arrangement for more than a decade, until 2006, when a largely unknown Democratic candidate, Albert Baldeo, an Indo-Guyanese lawyer, challenged and nearly defeated him, winning 49 percent of the vote — in part by tapping into the district’s rising nonwhite immigrant population. And Mr. Baldeo did so without the backing of the institutional party machinery.
Still, it is clear Maltese is not reaching everyone. In Richmond Hill, a few miles from the Cardella Senior Citizens Center, a bearded Sikh mechanic in a turban and an Indo-Guyanese shop owner hustled through their afternoon duties; Hispanic and Asian laborers and teenagers and business executives and tailors filled the sidewalks, streets and businesses.
“I will tell you one thing,” said one of them, a Guyanese store owner along 101st Avenue who said he speaks for many others. “The white politicians don’t care about us here.”
He said white elected officials could not rival the support or popularity that Mr. Baldeo has in the nonwhite immigrant community in Queens. “We know Baldeo and he will always do better in this neighborhood,” the store owner said. “You want to vote for someone who dwells in the same places you dwell and speaks to you in a certain way. He knows who we are.” (New American Press)