After the Democrats recently pulled out an unlikely victory in a special upstate Senate election, the spotlight only intensified on the 15th Senate District in Queens, where a Democratic victory could tilt the balance of power in the State Senate.
The much-anticipated matchup between longtime Republican incumbent Serphin Maltese and Democratic City Councilmember Joseph Addabbo will undoubtedly receive statewide and even national attention because of its potential impact.
Currently, Senate Republicans hold the slimmest of majorities - 31 to 30 - and a loss in this or any other 2008 race could give Democrats control for the first time in 40 years.
Addabbo, who contemplated running for Maltese’s seat in 2006, said he certainly realizes the far-reaching implications of his race, but vowed to keep his focus at the local level.
“Even though the Democrats are one seat away, and even though my race is one some people will center on, we still have to keep the focus of the campaign on the issues of the people,” Addabbo said.
Although Addabbo has not officially announced his candidacy - he plans to do so at the end of March or early April - one area he said would have a big impact on his race will be the increased popularity of the Web.
Addabbo, who utilized e-mail and Internet campaigns during his 2001 and 2005 City Council campaigns, said he plans to launch a new web site, including a place where supporters can donate to his campaign, for this race.
“I plan to use it again on a larger scale looking to reach out to voters informing them of my platforms and values and more importantly hearing from them,” Addabbo said.
Meanwhile, Maltese acknowledged that he is not very adept at using the Internet or the Web, but he said he is making a concerted effort to familiarize himself with it because he realizes its potential impact.
“It’s a fantastic tool,” Maltese said. “Just as successful businesses are using it more, I think to be successful in politics, you will have to use it more and more.”
Maltese, like many of his Republican Senate colleagues, recently upgraded his web site adding a scrolling online photo gallery, more news updates and streaming video footage from the Senate floor in Albany to increase its appeal to his constituents.
The new site, which debuted at the beginning of 2008, is being updated more frequently and receiving increased traffic. During the month of February, 2,634 unique visitors came to Maltese’s site - a sharp increase from when the old site was up - according to his Chief of Staff Victoria Vattimo.