Nassau County Legis. Dave Denenberg declared his candidacy Wednesday for the State Senate seat vacated late last year by Republican Charles Fuschillo Jr., but faces a possible primary against Freeport Deputy Mayor and Village Trustee Carmen Piñeyro.
Denenberg (D-Merrick), who will hold a news conference in Seaford Thursday to announce his run, said his campaign will focus on holding the line on property taxes, boosting local school aid and helping Long Island home and business owners recover from superstorm Sandy.
"As a legislator, I have tried to be as responsive, accessible and effective as possible," said Denenberg, 49, who is in his 15th year in the legislature, which is controlled by Republicans. "No one has fought harder for the interests of their constituents than I have."
The 8th Senate District, which stretches from Nassau's South Shore to just across Wheatley Heights in Suffolk, has been vacant since Fuschillo resigned on Dec. 31 to run a nonprofit group.
Piñeyro, 37, announced her candidacy last month, but Nassau Democratic Party chairman Jay Jacobs said he is urging the former Freeport school board member to step aside.
"We see Dave as the stronger candidate because of the number of years he has served, the recognition he has in the community he seeks to represent and his strength as a proven vote-getter with Republican and independent voters," Jacobs said.
Denenberg won re-election last year in his 19th Legislative District, where Republicans hold a 2-1 advantage among registered voters.
Jacobs called Piñeyro a "rising star" but said it was "not in the party's interest" to have an expensive and potentially divisive primary.
Piñeyro said Wednesday that she has no intention of dropping out of the race.
"I'll see Dave in the primary in September," she said. "I look forward to debating the issues that are important to voters in the 8th Senate District."
Denenberg has $103,000 in his legislative campaign account that he can use for his Senate campaign, while Piñeyro has $3,300 in her village campaign account. Campaign finance law allows funds from local races to be used for state campaigns.
Denenberg said he needs to raise between $500,000 and $1 million to wage an effective Senate campaign.
The Executive Committee of the Nassau Republican Party will select its Senate candidate Thursday, said party spokesman Tony Santino.
Nassau Legis. Michael Venditto and Assemb. Joseph Saladino, both of Massapequa, are the most frequently discussed candidates. The Nassau portion of the 8th Senate District has 63,686 registered Democrats and 65,615 Republicans, according to state Board of Elections records. The Suffolk section has 20,472 Democrats and 11,829 Republicans.
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.
State Sen. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) is planning to vacate his seat as he seeks the GOP nomination to challenge Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton). Democrats are also expected to mount aggressive campaigns against Sen. Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City) and Sen. Jack Martins (R-Mineola).
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has yet to announce whether he will call a special election or allow Fuschillo's seat to remain vacant through November.