Jim Gennaro says his time is now.
“My opponent very much represents the past,” Gennaro, a Democratic councilman, said last night about the Republican state senator he’s trying to unseat, Frank Padavan. “This is clearly an election between the past versus the future.”
Padavan was first elected to the State Senate in 1972; Gennaro was elected to the City Council in 2001.
The councilman was speaking to supporters at a fund-raiser at the Woolworth Kitchen last night. There, Gennaro sought to cast Padavan as part of a dwindling Republican apparatus. “They’re not getting the people’s business done because the people’s business is not on their agenda. What they’re interested in is hanging onto power long past their time, " he said. "This is what is really going on.”
Before ending his speech, Gennaro reminded critics that he’s won elected office in the face of long odds before. “You supporters have believed in me since the year 2000, the year I first started raising money, when I was a punk who couldn’t win.”
He went on, “Everyone is buying into the legend of my opponent, and how he can’t be beaten. It’s three-to-one Democrat," he said, referring to the demographics of the district. "I’m a damn good Democrat. We’re taking that district!”
Gennaro is considered a long shot in the race, and Padavan is treated in some areas he represents as a something of a rock star. But, as Gennaro well knows, there are more Democrats than Republicans in the district. According to the State Board of Elections, in the 11th State Senate District, there are 85,860 registered Democrats, 32,669 registered Republicans, and 35,426 unaffiliated voters.
After the speech, I asked Gennaro why, with these statistics, he thinks a Republican official has been able to win reelection so many times.
Gennaro said there has been a lack of strong challengers willing to face down Padavan, especially because the State Senate has long had a Republican majority. It didn’t make sense, Gennaro told me, “to run against him 10 years ago, when all you’re going to get is a seat in the minority.”
Although it’s not a sure thing this year, Democrats are widely expected to win a majority in the State Senate soon.
Gennaro said he thought about running in previous cycles, but recalled thinking to himself, “I’m a member of the majority in the City Council, part of the leadership team, chairman of a committee. I’m going to go give that up to go sit in the minority? You know, it’s like, why would I do that?”
He added, “So, my thinking was, I would do it when the majority is within sight.”