Denenberg's Senate run could shift power balance

Nassau Legis. David Denenberg (D-Merrick) on July 9,

Nassau Legis. David Denenberg (D-Merrick) on July 9, 2013. (Credit: Danielle Finkelstein )

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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Every little move on the State Senate battlefield these days holds the potential to change Albany's power balance.

So it goes for the candidacy of Democratic Nassau Legis. David Denenberg. He is preparing to run for the bi-county 8th District seat vacated Dec. 31 by 16-year Republican incumbent Charles Fuschillo Jr., who quit to run the Alzheimer's Foundation of America.

Invitations are going out this week to a "spring gala" fundraiser March 13 at the Coral House in Baldwin for Denenberg (D-Merrick). Prices range from $200 per person to $10,000 for a "titanium sponsor." Significantly, the invitation highlights the names of four "special invited guests" not always seen on the same page.

One of them, Queens Sen. Michael Gianaris, heads the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee. That might suggest a dominant role, because Democrats are a house majority. But that's only by registration. A handful of Democrats broke off and reached a power-sharing deal with the Republicans led by Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre).

Another VIP touted for the Denenberg fete is Jay Jacobs, Nassau party chairman. Jacobs and Denenberg have clashed in the past, but the chairman recently told Newsday: "At the end of the day, Dave and I have been together a heck of a lot more than we've been apart."

The Senate district straddles the county line to include communities in Suffolk -- where Richard Schaffer is party chairman. His name also appears on the invitation.

In recent years, Schaffer openly turned a cold shoulder toward efforts to return the Senate to Democratic control. But lately he's signaled some rapport with the Senate Democrats.

And a fourth Denenberg "special guest" is Democratic state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, the only official elected statewide from Long Island, who is seeking re-election in November.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has the option of calling a special election for the former Fuschillo seat, but has not done so, and some observers believe the Democratic governor will leave the seat open until November. He'll be seeking re-election then. Possible GOP candidates to succeed Fuschillo are Nassau Legis. Michael Venditto and Assemb. Joseph Saladino, both from Massapequa.

The current fragmentation in the 63-district Senate is unprecedented. It now has 29 Republicans plus an overt alliance with conservative Brooklyn Democrat Simcha Felder. Then there are the four breakaway members of the Independent Democratic Conference, whose leader, Jeffrey Klein of the Bronx, and Skelos have a power-sharing arrangement.

There are 25 mainline Democrats, plus two former Democratic leaders no longer in the conference after indictment on corruption charges: Malcolm Smith of Queens and John Sampson of Brooklyn. Along with the former Fuschillo seat, there is a second vacancy, created when Eric Adams (D-Brooklyn) left to become borough president.

With so many moving parts, any shift can affect the whole body.