Marching Uphill: The 15th State Senate District
by Anthony Stasi
Sep 23, 2014 | 16594 views | 0 0 comments | 860 860 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Michael Conigliaro with Councilman Eric Ulrich at his campaign headquarters opening over the weekend. (Photo: Michael O'Kane)
Michael Conigliaro with Councilman Eric Ulrich at his campaign headquarters opening over the weekend. (Photo: Michael O'Kane)
The political universe does not know that much about Republican challenger Michael Conigliaro, who is taking on State Senator Joseph Addabbo, Jr. That can change in the next month, but the district itself is one of the steepest uphill climbs for challengers of any party.

Candidates get drawn into running for City Council, State Senate, and Assembly in this district because there is a tendency for voters (most of whom are registered Democrats) to cross party lines. No seat is a Democratic or Republican lock.

Yet, defeating an incumbent in an area that stretches from Rockaway to Middle Village is very difficult. The biggest defeats of incumbents in this area in the last 20 years were when Al Stabile defeated Councilman Walter Ward in 1993 and when Addabbo unseated ten-term State Senator Serphin Maltese in 2008

Even in those cases, both Stabile and Addabbo were staples in the community before those elections and they were still tight victories.

Conigliaro opened up a campaign headquarters last week in Middle Village. Usually the Queens Republican Party has to carefully place their limited resources in a city where the registration is against them.

They should have had a candidate in the 11th District, where State Senator Tony Avella just went 15 rounds with challenger John Liu. But that is not the case, so attention might go someplace else.

Is Conigliaro opening a headquarters a little late? Yes, but that is not a deal breaker for a challenger. It should not be matter too greatly how long Conigliaro pays rent. Conigliaro’s headquarters are at the Old Glory Republican Club on Myrtle Avenue, so they already have an office set up.

Conigliaro recently brought veteran political advisor James McClelland onboard. McClelland is the guy that got Peter Koo to the City Council by winning John Liu’s old seat as a Republican. But that was not the 15th Senate District, and Koo was not running against Addabbo.

Most people would be hesitant to run against someone who has a bridge and a school with their name on it (a name Addabbo shares with his late father). But McClelland, a die-hard Jets fan, likes the occasional Hail Mary pass.

After winning with Koo, he boldly ushered him to the opposition party. More to the point, if you are going to run a 30-day campaign, you want to hire a guy that can reach the end zone.

The Republicans ran their best candidate - their best statewide - two years ago in this district with Councilman Eric Ulrich. It was still an uphill climb.

This district is an illusion for candidates. It looks so winnable from the street. The incumbents are built-in elements of this community until term limits or greener pastures say otherwise.

If Conigliaro is serious about this race, he deserves credit for carrying his party’s banner. There should always be a two-party choice for voters in all elections.

No matter what people say about politicians, this is still a matter of public service. Let the climb begin.

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