Democrat Adam Haber Thursday launched his campaign for the seat held by state Sen. Jack Martins (R-Mineola), setting up what is expected to be one of the most closely watched races in the state this year as Democrats attempt to wrest control of the State Senate from Republicans.
Haber, a retired Wall Street futures trader from East Hills, ran for Nassau County executive last year but lost a Democratic primary to former County Executive Thomas Suozzi.
Thursday, Haber was surrounded by Democratic Party leaders and county lawmakers as he announced his candidacy for the 7th Senate District, which includes Valley Stream, Westbury, Great Neck and Port Washington. It has 86,564 registered Democrats, 67,859 Republicans and 53,548 registered voters unaligned with a major party.
"My goal is to exceed your expectations and to make you believe in politicians again," Haber told a crowd of about 100 supporters at the VFW Post 5253 in Albertson. Haber, 49, who largely self-financed his county executive campaign, said he would put at least $79,500 of his own money into the race -- the annual salary of a state senator.
Haber said he also would solicit contributions aggressively. He will hold his first fundraiser on April 22 at the Inn at New Hyde Park.
"I don't need this job, but I want this job," said Haber, who serves on the Roslyn School Board and owns a restaurant in Manhattan.
Haber said that if elected, he would work to provide tax relief for Nassau residents, improve the quality of schools and press for passage of the Women's Equality Act, which would strengthen equal pay laws and extend the prohibition on sexual harassment to businesses with fewer than four employees.
The bill passed the Democratic-led Assembly but the Senate refused to back it because of language strengthening abortion rights.
Haber described Martins, a Republican in his second term, as a "nice guy. But he's a politician, and I can't think of one thing he has done for the district or Long Island that supports jobs or brought down taxes. That's just not his mantra."
Martins' spokesman Chris Schneider said the senator "promised to fight for our communities and get our state headed back in the right direction, and that's exactly what he's done. He cut taxes for millions of middle class families, delivered a property tax cap, controlled state spending and promoted economic development."
The race could have statewide implications. The Republicans' narrow majority in the Senate depends on a coalition that includes a conservative Democrat and a five-member Independent Democratic Conference.
"The last thing Nassau County voters want to do is elect the guy who lost to the guy who lost to the county executive," Senate GOP spokesman Scott Reif said of Haber and Suozzi, who lost to GOP County Executive Edward Mangano.
Long Island has been without a Democratic member of the State Senate since Martins, then the mayor of Mineola, defeated Democrat Craig Johnson by 451 votes in 2010. The win gave Republicans State Senate control.
Michael Dawidziak, a Bohemia political consultant who works primarily with Republicans, said Martins is known as a hard worker who proved himself by defeating an incumbent.
Haber, meanwhile, is an aggressive campaigner who has shown a willingness to spend his own money, he said.
"This is shaping up as the most competitive race of the year," Dawidziak said.
But Lawrence Levy, executive dean of the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University, said Republicans "will spend a virtually unlimited amount of money to save this seat."