Although the September primary and November election are still more than half a year away, two candidates have formally declared their intentions to seek Ada Smith’s state Senate seat in Jamaica.
Joseph Marthone, a community activist who has tangled with the Rochdale Village board of directors, this week joined Liz Bishop-Goldsmith, an anti-gun advocate, as a confirmed candidate to represent the 10th Senate District, which covers Jamaica, South Jamaica, Springfield Gardens, Laurelton, Broad Channel and parts of St. Albans, Ozone Park, and Richmond Hill.
“This is a grass-roots campaign. I don’t have big money and big names behind me,” Marthone said. “The community has been largely underserved under Ada Smith for 12 to 14 years. It would be better served by someone else.”
Bishop-Goldsmith, who announced her candidacy the week before Marthone, also took aim at Smith.
“What I would love to know is exactly what Ada has done. We have seen absolutely no reflections of her power in Albany back in her district. It is fine to take seniors for trips every other year, but there is much more that a community needs.”
Smith responded to questions about the election by asserting that it is too early to talk about the race.
“Right now I’m working to get the (state) budget passed,” the longtime incumbent said. “That is my responsibility to my constituents. Once it is complete, then I will turn my concerns to the election.”
Marthone has formed an election committee and has begun raising money. Bishop-Goldsmith has started to assemble a staff that includes deputy campaign manager Tanya Cruz, who once worked for Smith. Neither candidate has a campaign office.
Both challengers said they will focus on a variety of social and economic issues during the campaign. Bishop-Goldsmith, a grandmother, who is president of the nonprofit group Mothers Against Guns, listed gun violence, education, youth and senior citizen services, economic development and the environment as some of her concerns. She said the first bill she would sponsor in the senate would be a gun control bill that is pending in Albany. It would raise the minimum age for the purchase of guns and ammunition from 18 to 21. She worked on the bill as an advocate.
“Gun violence affects everyone. From the Senate seat, we can talk to the entire state’s populace. One community cannot do it alone,” she said.
Marthone said employment, health, housing and security were important issues in the district. He did not mention any specific initiatives he would bring to the Senate floor.
“I’m still reviewing events within the community. We are in desperate need of a lot of things. I don’t know what our primary, secondary and tertiary focus will be,” he said.
Candidates cannot officially get on the ballot until they file petitions with the local board of elections. They can begin collecting signatures in June, and petitions are due by July 20. Marthone said he has already registered his election committee with the Board of Elections, but a board spokesman said Marthone’s committee is not yet listed in the agency’s files.
Smith, an 18-year incumbent, questioned whether Marthone was eligible to run.
“You have to live in the district you want to represent. I wouldn’t take that very seriously,” she said.
Marthone has an ongoing dispute with Rochdale Village management over his residency in the co-op complex.
Smith has dominated the last several elections, trouncing candidates in the Democratic Party primary before coasting to victory, often unopposed, in the November general poll. Despite Smith’s strong standing within the party and campaign experience, both challengers said they have powerful people backing their campaigns.
“I have spoken to two or three politicians who said it was a good idea,” Marthone said.
Bishop-Goldsmith said she will be able to raise necessary funds to unseat Smith.
“We will do what we have to do. We will have the money to mount a formidable campaign. We’re going to knock on doors. Those people that don’t know me will get to know me.”
Bishop-Goldsmith would not reveal who is supporting her candidacy behind the scenes.
Both challengers took time to contrast themselves with Smith, a candidate they perceive as tied up in Albany politics. Bishop-Goldsmith said she would model herself after state Sen. Malcolm Smith, who represented much of the 10th District before redistricting in 2002.
“Under Sen. Malcolm Smith we got a fair share of resources from Albany and the respect that we deserve. He was available to his constituents.”
She added that she would hold monthly town hall meetings in the district if she is elected.
Marthone stressed his outsider status as his greatest asset if he is successful.
“I’m not tied to the political machine, so I don’t owe anybody any favors. I plan on addressing the needs of the people,” he said.