Dan Janison has been a reporter at Newsday since 1997.
The special election to succeed convicted former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos is generating frantic speculation about fundraising, party strategies, and how the presidential primaries that day might shape local turnout.
But one immutable fact underlies the balloting set for April 19: The Republicans in Albany drew this 9th Senate District so Republican Skelos could be sure to win it.
And win it he did.
Barely 15 months ago, prior to his corruption indictment, Skelos was re-elected with 63 percent of the vote. Two years earlier, Skelos garnered 61 percent, even though it was a presidential year, when New York’s Democratic turnout rises.
Christopher McGrath, the Republican candidate to succeed Skelos, said Tuesday of the composition of the 9th S.D.: “Do I think it’s an advantage? I do.
“People of the district are happy with Republican control of the Senate — and of having checks and balances in the state.”
Still, nobody can claim that the lines by themselves guarantee victory, even for the party that drew them.
For one thing, the 9th district has 96,701 registered Democrats compared to 77,381 Republicans and 51,638 unaffiliated voters, according to recent state enrollment numbers.
For another, operatives of both major parties note that during the last redistricting in 2011, the 9th district absorbed Democratic parts of Elmont from the neighboring 7th district, where the goal was to protect Sen. Jack Martins (R-Old Westbury).
Also, Democrats cite District Attorney Madeline Singas’s election numbers last November. She beat Republican Kate Murray 55-45 percent in the 9th S.D., and within that, 54-46 percent in Skelos’ Rockville Centre stronghold.
And since the Skelos seat became vacant because of scandal and prosecution, Democrats argue, a further partisan backlash is possible.
“Right now,” added Assemb. Todd Kaminsky, the highly touted Democratic candidate for the seat, “you have to throw out a lot of old rules in light of the magnitude of corruption revealed at all levels of government.”
A well-known Nassau Democrat who declined to be identified said: “The odds today? You have to give Kaminsky an edge.”
But a well-known Nassau Republican, also preferring anonymity countered: “It’s still a district with Republican voting proclivities.”
The winner of this special contest would face voters again in the November general election in order to serve a full term.
Five years ago, former New York City Mayor Ed Koch announced that then-majority-leader Skelos “weaseled out” of his earlier promise to allow an independent committee to draw district lines.
So as before, the districts continued to be crafted by the majorities of the houses, including the Democrats in the Assembly, then led by since-convicted Assemb. Sheldon Silver.
The tenure of both convicted leaders lives on in the lines they approved — a separate story from the lines they crossed.