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The state’s top Republican said Monday voters in a key special election in Nassau County will love GOP candidate Christopher McGrath while acknowledging that they still need to get to know him.
McGrath, 57, is running against Assemb. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) in the special election to replace ex-Sen. Dean Skelos, who was convicted in December on bribery, conspiracy and extortion charges. The contest will be held April 19, the same day as New York’s presidential primary, and the outcome may have an impact on the State Senate, where Republicans hold a razor-thin majority.
McGrath, a Hewlett resident, was endorsed by Republicans last week after several other higher profile names were considered. McGrath is a private attorney and former head of the Nassau County Bar Association and has been involved with a number of local groups.
“Chris McGrath is going to play very well with voters,” Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) said Monday. “People are going to like him,” Flanagan continued. “He’s got a great presence, a great family history, a sterling career . . . he teaches at Hofstra [University], has run some local not-for-profits, has been involved in coaching [for a] very long period of time.”
McGrath’s father died when he was 18 months old and his mother put him and his three siblings through school, Flanagan said, adding, “So he has a very compelling story and he has an excellent reputation.”
In a separate radio interview, Flanagan acknowledged voters need to get to know the Republican candidate. “You have to give people a chance to know Chris McGrath,” Flanagan said on The Capitol Pressroom, a public radio program. “I’ll match his record, I’ll match his integrity with anybody.”
Democrats have derided McGrath as a “high-priced personal-injury lawyer.” Kaminsky didn’t address McGrath’s candidacy Monday but touted his own background as a former U.S. attorney. “People are tired of corruption in Albany,” Kaminsky said. “They want someone who is going to champion honest government.”
Democrats are counting on Kaminsky having a more recognized name than McGrath and figure that Kaminsky’s previous career as a federal anti-corruption lawyer will allow them to win a district that Republicans have held for decades. The district, in the southwestern corner of the county, has 93,000 Democrats and 75,000 Republicans.
With Skelos’ expulsion, there are 31 Republicans and 31 Democrats in the Senate, but the GOP has a governing coalition with six breakaway Democrats.