Democratic Lieutenant Governor candidate Kathy Hochul campaigned in Nassau and Suffolk Thursday, using a newly formed political party focused on women's rights to rally support for local Democratic candidates.

Hochul, a former congresswoman from Erie County selected by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to serve as his running mate, called on Democrats to help collect petition signatures so the Women's Equality Party can appear on the November general election ballot.

The party, a Cuomo led initiative announced last month, would provide another line to elect Democratic candidates who support all 10-points of his proposed Women's Equality Act. The package of bills has been approved by the Democratic led state Assembly in each of the past two years. But it has failed to get through the Senate because of Republican opposition to a provision to strengthen abortion rights language in state law.

"Now is the time for women to be heard," Hochul told more than 100 supporters outside the State Supreme Court building in Mineola.

In Mineola, Hochul endorsed Nassau Legis. Dave Denenberg (D-Merrick) who is running against Nassau Legis. Michael Venditto (R-Massapequa) in the open 8th Senate District; East Hills businessman Adam Haber, who is running against State Sen. Jack Martins (R-Mineola), and Sea Cliff Mayor Bruce Kennedy, who recently switched from Republican to Democrat to run against Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset).

In an appearance later in Melville, Hochul announced her support of Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the nonprofit Citizens Campaign for the Environment, who is running against Republican Islip Town Supervisor Tom Croci for the open 3rd Senate District seat.

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State Sen. Cathy Young (R-Olean), chairwoman of the Senate Republican Campaign Committee, said Senate Republicans voted in favor of nine of the 10 provisions in the Women's Equality Act, including those that would "end human trafficking, ensure equal pay for equal work, combat sexual harassment in the workplace, and afford stronger protections for domestic violence victims."

Republicans say Democrats are stalling passage of the act by insisting that all 10 initiatives, including the abortion provision, be cosidered together. Republicans say the the abortion would amount to "abortion expansion." Cuomo and women's rights groups say it merely would codify in state law the rights guaranteed by the U.S. Supreme Court in its decision in Roe v. Wade.

Also Thursday, state Republicans released a campaign ad charging that Haber was "playing politics with women's equality" by insisting that all the 10-points be voted on together including, the "extreme" abortion provision. Haber's campaign called the video an "attempt to distract voters" from the fact that Martins he had sided with Republicans in opposing the abortion language.

The new party needs 15,000 petition signatures to appear statewide ballot. The deadline for signatures to be collected is Aug. 19, according to the state board of elections website.

With Yancey Roy