Sea Cliff Mayor Bruce Kennedy has dropped his GOP bid to face Assemb. Charles Lavine and instead will challenge Republican state Sen. Carl Marcellino in November -- while running as a Democrat.
The stunning reversal came after the Nassau Conservative Party announced last month that it would not endorse Kennedy in his Assembly run after the mayor presided over a pair of same-sex marriage ceremonies. The Nassau Republican Party then withdrew its support and announced plans to back attorney Louis Imbroto against Lavine (D-Glen Cove).
Kennedy planned to run a GOP primary against Imbroto. But after meeting with Democrats, he changed his mind and filed paperwork Friday dropping out of the Assembly race and declaring his candidacy against Marcellino, of Syosset, whose 5th Senate District includes parts of Nassau and Suffolk counties.
"It's quite apparent there is no place for me in the Republican Party because of my belief in human rights and upholding the law," Kennedy said.
Nassau Conservative Party chairman Daniel Donovan said last month that Kennedy "didn't present himself in the right way on issues. We're very stiff on issues that have to do with the family and marriage."
Kennedy argues the GOP has a pre-Civil War mentality on same-sex marriage and believes in "denying people equal rights under the law." He added that Democratic values are more in line with his positions and those of voters in the district.
"This is about being a public servant," Kennedy said. "I took an oath to uphold the law. Because of that, the party decided I was not fit for office."
Kennedy, 49, filed paperwork Friday changing his party registration to Democrat. The three-term mayor has been a registered Republican for 31 years.
Marcellino declined to criticize Kennedy and said he would run on his record. "I am not concerned," he said. "I always have an opponent. I am proud of my record and of my votes."
Anthony Santino, spokesman for Nassau GOP chairman Joseph Mondello, declined to comment while Suffolk GOP Party chairman John Jay LaValle did not respond to a request for comment.
The 5th District, spanning from Glen Cove to Commack and from Northport to Plainview, has 78,515 registered Democrats; 74,250 enrolled Republicans and 58,088 voters not enrolled in a major political party, according to the State Board of Elections.
State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria), chairman of the Senate Democrats' campaign committee, said Kennedy is a formidable candidate and the party will invest "heavily" in the race.
"This is a swing district based on numbers and performance," said Gianaris, who acknowledged that social issues such as same-sex marriage will be a focus of the campaign. "And Bruce Kennedy has a tremendous story to tell about a Republican Party gone awry."
Nassau Democratic Party chairman Jay Jacobs said Kennedy "is a fair-minded and moderate guy who will appeal to both Democrats and moderate Republicans."
David Wright, the Democrats' original candidate to challenge Marcellino, dropped out of the race this week.