The Nassau Republican Party has tapped Legis. Michael Venditto, an attorney and the son of Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto, to run for the State Senate seat vacated by Charles Fuschillo.
The party's executive committee unanimously nominated Venditto, 32, of Massapequa, to be its candidate in the 8th Senate District Thursday over veteran GOP Assemb. Joseph Saladino.
The district, in which Democrats hold a 52-48 percent advantage among registered voters, stretches from Nassau's South Shore to Wheatley Heights in Suffolk. Nassau GOP chairman Joseph Mondello called Saladino (R-Massapequa) an "excellent candidate" and a "prodigious worker." But he said Venditto, who has served 16 months in the county legislature, represents the future of the party.
"We need a fresh young face," said Mondello, acknowledging that name recognition associated with Venditto's father factored into the decision. "Mike is just what the doctor ordered for the Republican Party in 2014."
Saladino, first elected to the Assembly in 2004, did not respond to requests for comment.
Venditto said his campaign will focus on holding down property taxes, stimulating job growth and helping South Shore families recover from superstorm Sandy.
"Someone needs to stand up for the hardworking middle-class taxpayers of Long Island," Venditto said.
Two Democrats -- county Legis. David Denenberg of Merrick and Freeport Deputy Mayor and Village Trustee Carmen Piñeyro -- plan to run for the seat and will face off in a primary in September.
Foreshadowing a potential campaign attack, Venditto said he voted for a county budget last year that held the line on property taxes while Denenberg voted for a pair of tax hikes in 2003 and 2009 sponsored by then-Democratic County Executive Thomas Suozzi.
Denenberg, who held a rally in Seaford Thursday announcing his candidacy, said district voters were looking for "real solutions and not mudslinging." He declined to discuss his reasons for voting for the tax hikes, which all legislative Democrats supported, but noted that 12 of the 14 county budgets he has supported had no tax increases
He said he voted against the 2013 budget because it called for passing the costs of tax refunds to school districts, which Democrats said would cause school taxes to skyrocketIn October 2012, the GOP nominated Venditto, a former counsel and deputy town attorney for the Town of Hempstead, to fill the legislative seat of Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt, who had died a week earlier from a heart attack.
Venditto won a special election in the district, which has the highest percentage of registered Republican voters of any of the 19 legislative districts, according to the Nassau Board of Elections. He was unopposed for re-election in November after Democrats selected a candidate who did not live in the district and who was removed from the ballot.
The 8th Senate District has been vacant since Fuschillo, a Republican, resigned on Dec. 31 to run a nonprofit group.Venditto said it was critical to keep the Senate seat in Republican hands to prevent Democrats from taking over the Senate. Democrats already have control of the governorship and the Assembly.
"To preserve our suburban quality of life, we need to keep the balance of power in the Senate," Venditto said.
The Republicans' narrow majority in the Senate depends on a coalition that includes a conservative Democrat and a five-member Independent Democratic Conference.
Mondello said maintaining GOP control of the 8th Senate District is the "top priority" of the Nassau GOP in November.
Mondello said he was not concerned about Venditto's short stint to date as a lawmaker. He noted that Venditto grew up in a political family, worked on his father's political campaigns and had distinguished himself in his time in the legislature.