Denenberg's district restored to proposed new map

Pam Dempsey and Lori Stehl, holding signs from Pam Dempsey and Lori Stehl, holding signs from left, in the legislative chamber in Mineola for the vote to redraw legislative districts in Nassau County. (Feb. 25, 2013) Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

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Nassau Republicans have agreed to restore Legis. David Denenberg (D-Merrick) to his longtime district after Legis. Denise Ford bucked GOP leaders and refused to vote for new legislative lines at a marathon meeting Monday.

The move is not expected to change the balance of the power in the legislature, which Republicans control 10-9, according to GOP officials familiar with the plan.

The proposed GOP map carved out a sliver of Merrick in the 19th District, including Denenberg's home, and placed it in Democratic Legis. Joseph Scannell's 5th District in Baldwin. Dozens of local residents argued on Monday that the map was drawn in partisan fashion to force out Denenberg and make the district a potential pickup for Republicans.

"To move Dave out of his district in this way was a little unfair," said Ford, a Long Beach Democrat who caucuses with Republicans. "I raised concerns and hopefully they'll put Dave back in his district."

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Ford said Denenberg is popular in his district, where registered Republicans outnumber Democrats by 3 to 2, according to Denenberg, and that he would have to sell his house to run again if the maps weren't revised.

Republicans bowed to Ford's concerns and offered an amendment to their map Tuesday that restored to the 19th a section of Merrick that includes Denenberg's home. Jericho Gardens, a small community in New Cassel, also will be restored to the 2nd District after Legis. Robert Troiano (D-Westbury) protested the removal.

Denenberg called the decision to restore his district a "welcome development." He said he and Ford "have had a close working relationship and we represent similar districts. Both of us have taken tough, independent votes. So, while I appreciate her decision, it was not entirely unexpected."

Denenberg said he still is mulling a run for higher office, including Nassau comptroller, but also would consider seeking re-election in his district.

A vote on the revised map is set for next Tuesday, the last day it can legally be approved, said Frank Moroney, spokesman for legislative Republicans. Ford said she will vote for the map once the amendments are approved. Republicans recessed Monday's legislative meeting without a vote.

Moroney called the decision to draw Denenberg out of his district, and then restore him, a "policy choice. You do the best you can with what you are given."

Dozens of local residents spoke out at Monday's meeting to support Denenberg.

"The community of Merrick and Bellmore overwhelmingly selected a representative," said Merrick resident Susan Joffe. "To be told that his block has suddenly moved to another district nullifies the vote. It disenfranchises the community."Despite the proposed changes, Democrats plan to vote against the map, which would merge Delia DeRiggi-Whitton's 18th District in Glen Cove with fellow Democrat Wayne Wink's 11th District in Roslyn. Democrats complain the GOP map dilutes minority voting rights and splits up the Five Towns.

"This is a step in the right direction," said Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport). "But we are still inclined to vote against the map."

Attorney Fred Brewington of Hempstead said he is considering filing suit against the county because the GOP map raises possible constitutional and Voting Rights Act issues.

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Two Republican lawmakers, Michael Venditto of Massapequa and Joseph Belesi of Farmingdale, also would be put in the same district under the GOP map. Belesi has said he is considering retiring.

With Celeste Hadrick

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