A conservative upsets the status quo
Dec 23, 2020 | 6124 views | 0 0 comments | 809 809 recommendations | email to a friend | print
We’re revisiting a photo from our archives that we ran a couple of weeks back asking readers to help us identify some of the folks in the photo. So far we’ve made it a little over half way down the line.

To recap, pictured from left to right is the late Emanuel Gold, a former assemblyman and state senator from Forest Hills, Melinda Katz, who at the time was in the Assembly and now serves as district attorney of Queens, and former Queens borough president Claire Shulman.

Gold passed away in 2013, while Shulman died just a couple of months ago.

The woman partially obscured with her hand on Gold’s shoulder is Karen Koslowitz, who was in the City Council at the time, was forced out of office in 2001 because of term limits, but eventually won the same seat again and is currently in office.

She will be term-limited out of office again in 2021. Deja vu all over again.

The man at the center of the photo is Charles Gargano, and at the time the photo was taken he was head of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) under then-governor George Pataki, a post he held from 1995 until 2007.

One reader noted that the trowel Gold is holding reads “Forest Hills Restoration Project Ground Breaking Ceremony May 1, 1997.” The project was likely funded all or in part by the ESDC, which is why Gargano would have been there.

Gargano took a post as deputy administrator of the United States Urban Mass Transit Administration in 1981, and from 1988 until 1991 he was ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago.

Incidentally, he also had a minor acting career. He had bit roles in Analyze That as a Maitre D’, was a golf course announcer in Serendipity, played himself with Senator Alfonse D’Amato in The Devil’s Advocate, and was a Port Authority police commander in the Oliver Stone-directed World Trade Center.

None of our readers were able to identify the man to Gargano’s left, get in touch with us at polposition@queensledger.com if you know who he is. Which brings us to the man on the far right.

That is Serphin Maltese. He served in the State Senate from 1989 until 2008.

His first two terms in office he won election on the Conservative Party line, albeit usually with support from the Republican Party, but still an impressive accomplishment not only for a third-party candidate, but for a conservative third-party candidate in a district that up until then reliably voted Democratic.

Maltese won his seat from Matin Knorr, who had held it since 1969.

Before his election to the State Senate, Maltese ran for the congressional seat vacated by Geraldine Ferraro when she agreed to become Walter Mondale’s running mate.

He was defeated, by Thomas Manton, who was also head of the Queens Democratic Party at a time when the party’s endorsement was still a golden ticket to getting elected.

That influence took a big hit when Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez defeated Manton’s successor in both Congress and as head of the party, Joseph Crowley.

Maltese would eventually switch his party affiliation from Conservative to Republican in 1990, and would hold on to his seat until his defeat in 2008 by then-councilman Joseph Addabbo.

But the writing on the wall might have been clear in 2006. That year, Maltese narrowly defeated Democratic challenger Albert Baldeo by a mere 894 votes.

Baldeo was a newcomer to politics and had very little support from the Democratic Primary, but nearly pulled off the upset.

Sensing the seat was finally prime for flipping, the Democrats ran Addabbo two years later, a candidate with name recognition (not only his own, but his father Joseph Addabbo, Sr., represented essentially the same district in Congress from 1961 to 1986) and a proven political track record in the City Council.

It worked.

Maltese is still active in civic life, and serves as chair of the Board of Directors for Christ the King High School in Middle Village.

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