Addabbo challenger in Queens hopes to ride Jackson coattails.
Congressional candidate Simeon Golar works the crowds waiting for buses on Hillside Avenue in southeast Queens at the end of a hot workday. He shakes hands as the commuters peruse the campaign literature his volunteer staff has just distributed, asking them to vote for him in the Sept. 11 primary.
Rep. Joseph P. Addabbo is also campaigning for the Democratic nomination for the Sixth Congressional District seat. He is spending the Capitol recess at home , seeking to retain the post he has held for 24 years. Mr. Addabbo, a powerful force in Congress as the chairman of the House defense appropriations subcommittee, needs to be certain that his supporters will get out to vote in the coming election.
The contest pits two capable candidates in a tough election.
The Sixth District was redrawn in 1982 to give minority voters in the area greater clout. Mr. Golar, a black, ran a 51/2-week race against Addabbo in the 1982 primary and captured nearly 42 percent of the vote. During the April presidential primary, the Rev. Jesse Jackson received a plurality of votes in the district, and Golar hopes to ride this wave into office.
When a young man waiting for a bus asks the candidate why he should vote for him, Golar reminds him that Mr. Jackson ran to help blacks build political power.
''There are 30 million blacks in the United States, and only 21 in the US Congress,'' says Golar. ''We don't have political representation.''
The congressional district includes the southeast part of Queens, which has over 50 percent minority population. It includes the poor areas in Jamaica, upwardly mobile black middle-class neighborhoods like St. Alban's, and working-class Roman Catholic families in Howard Beach.
Golar charges that during Addabbo's career on Capitol Hill, the area deteriorated because of a lack of government response. Although he agrees that problems such a potholes and sewer and water problems are city issues, he says a powerful congressman could ''shake city resources'' and get things done.
Addabbo defends his record. The congressman, who has often received the endorsement of the Democratic, Republican, and Liberal Parties, has been a popular candidate in previous elections, and he has the support of many local black leaders, as well as such prominent Democrats as Sen. Edward M. Kennedy and Mayor Edward I. Koch.
''It's not a question of who you are, but what you've done,'' says Addabbo, who adds that he's accomplished a lot for the community.
He lists the retention of a veteran's hospital, funding for a local college, and a federal building. He also points to a piece of legislation he helped create that requires the federal government to give a certain percentage of contracts to minority businesses.
State assemblywoman Cynthia Jenkins says Addabbo may be ''a great congressman for the state and the country,'' but he hasn't done enough for blacks in Queens.
After Rep. Geraldine A. Ferraro (D) of Queens was selected as the vice-presidential candidate, some local politicians talked with Addabbo about running for her seat, thus taking him out of a difficult race and assuring a minority representative in Queens.[In New York State, a congressman can live outside of his or her district. In fact, Golar lives just outside of the Sixth District.]
''It made no political sense,'' says Addabbo about the Ferraro seat, for which he would have had to compete in a four-way contest. ''And this is where I live,'' adds Addabbo, whose home is in Ozone Park.
Addabbo supporters cite his community service, his seniority in Congress, and his key position on the defense appropriations subcommittee, which they say could fall into the hands of a more conservative Democrat if Addabbo is defeated.
But Golar says this very committee assignment has led to Addabbo's acceptance of campaign contributions from defense contractors. A complaint he filed with the Federal Elections Commission, which was later dismissed, charged that an Addabbo fund-raiser was once a lobbyist for Northrop Aviation Corporation, a major defense contractor, and that this situation violated federal election laws.
Addabbo has denied any violation of law, and he told the Village Voice that he ''supports [defense contractors] if they're right and fights them if they're wrong.''