Janison: Did political moves foreshadow retirement?

In an undated photo, State Sen. Owen Johnson

In an undated photo, State Sen. Owen Johnson stands in the capital building in Albany. (Credit: Dave Oxford)

Dan Janison

Melville. N.Y. Tuesday January 26, 2010. Daniel Janison, Dan Janison

Dan Janison has been a reporter at Newsday for 10

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The moment it was announced on Friday that veteran State Sen. Owen Johnson (R-West Babylon) would retire, two recent political moves suddenly seemed prescient.

In the Republican camp, the expansion of the Senate by one seat, as directed by Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), appears to have been especially shrewd because it could give the GOP extra breathing room. Even if the party loses the Johnson seat in November, the expected win by Republican Assemb. George Amedore Jr. of Rotterdam in a new upstate district could offset the Suffolk loss.

Among Democrats, Legis. Ricardo Montano instantly looked savvy for having just filed petitions to run against Johnson, defying Democratic county chairman Richard Schaffer's long-standing support for the 40-year incumbent.

Sen. Michael Gianaris of Astoria, chairman of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, said: "Rick Montano has spent the last several months building a strong grassroots effort and I believe that this district is looking forward to a progressive senator."

But a well-placed GOP source downplayed the prospect of his side losing to Montano, saying Johnson's exit "wasn't a complete shock."

UNLIKELY SCENARIO: Last week Suffolk Republicans were batting around the notion that with Mitt Romney's presidential prospects now looking good, House Homeland Security Committee chairman Peter King (R-Seaford) could leave to become U.S. Homeland Security secretary. The district where King seeks re-election this year has shifted east under reapportionment, drawing Suffolk operatives' interest in who could succeed him. But King said flatly Friday that while he focuses on security issues, and would have to give such an offer serious consideration, "I don't see it happening." One political obstacle, he added, might be controversial hearings he's conducted on U.S. Muslim radicalization.

NOTHING PERSONAL: Assembly candidate Richard Stiek of Port Washington has vowed to run a "professional, issue-driven campaign" about taxes and unfunded mandates. That may sound routine, but consider the circumstance: Stiek, a lawyer, emerged as the GOP candidate in Nassau's 16th District after Mark Schimel, estranged husband of incumbent Michelle Schimel (D-Great Neck), dropped out. The race, of course, has no chance of drawing the international glare of a Schimel-vs.-Schimel contest.