Gotham Gazette

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Staten Island's South Shore: Mulia, Tobacco and Tabacco

For More on the Special Elections:

• Staten Island’s North Shore
•Central Brooklyn

UPDATE: Republican Lou Tobacco won the special election with 70 percent of the counted vote. The unofficial returns did not include any votes cast for write-in candidate Todd Tabacco. Turnout was reportd to be low.

Voters on Staten Island’s South Shore may do a double take when they enter the voting both on Tuesday. The same candidate – John Mulia – appears on the Democratic, Conservative and Independence party lines. He is facing Lou Tobacco, who must content himself with one ballot line – the Republican one. But given the generally Republican politics of this district, that one line could be enough.

John Mulia is a registered member of the Conservative Party. But he says that, if elected, he will caucus with the Assembly’s Democratic majority “for the benefit of the people in the district.” The South Shore has had Republicans representing it in the Assembly for 25 years, Mulia said, and because of the way Albany works, has not been able to get its fair share from the state.

Traffic is the issue of biggest concern in the district, according to John Mulia, with residents of the area having among the longest commutes in the nation. He would work to get road improvements and repairs and would like to see another rail line on the island “up and running.”

On other issues, John Mulia is concerned that Staten Island will not get its “fair share” of the increase in state money for education in New York City. He also cited issues involving senior citizens as a priority and said he would work for laws to bring down the cost of medications for older residents.

Lou Tobacco is a pharmaceutical sales representative. If elected, he has said he would try to reduce taxes in the state and get a veterans cemetery built on Staten Island. In an effort to give the outnumbered Republicans in the Assembly a bit more clout, he would work to allow the ranking minority member of an Assembly committee to call hearings. Tobacco wants to see the death penalty restored in New York and would crack down further on sexual predators, including requiring repeat offenders to wear tracking devices.

But beyond concern about education, congestion and crime, the question of where Lou Tobacco has lived has emerged as a campaign issue. He lives in the district now – and was raised on Staten Island – but between January and June 2006, he reportedly lived in Arizona. The state constitution requires legislators to live in their districts for at least a full calendar year before the election. Tobacco, a former president of the Totenville Civic Association, said that he feared being laid off from his job in New York and went to work in Arizona for a while. But he didn't like the Southwest and was "homesick," so returned after several months.

A third candidate – Todd Tabacco (with an a) has entered the race as a write-in candidate. If he wins, Tabacco, who works for a financial firm, would be the first write-in candidate ever elected to the New York State Assembly.


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