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Two potential candidates to replace former Sen. Dean Skelos are sparring over Skelos’ application for a state pension following his corruption conviction -- possibly previewing a special-election clash.
Assemb. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) blasted Skelos’ “gall to line his pockets with taxpayer dollars by taking a huge pension.”
That spurred reactions not only from Senate Republicans but also Assemb. Brian Curran (R-Lynbrook), who, along with Kaminsky, has been mentioned as one who might succeed Skelos.
Curran blasted Kaminsky for being “eerily silent” about former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver doing the same thing as Skelos -- applying for a pension after being convicted of corruption.
In addition, a Senate Republican spokesman called Kaminsky -- whom some Democrats favor to run for Skelos' now-vacant seat -- a “fraud and a phony” for neglecting the fact that the Democrat-led state Assembly failed to approve a measure that would block convicted officeholders from receiving a state pension.
It’s just the latest escalation in what is expected to be a fierce battle to replace Skelos in the Senate, where Republicans currently hold a razor-thin majority.
On Tuesday, the state comptroller’s office confirmed that Skelos applied for his state pension on Dec. 22, just 11 days after he and his son, Adam, were convicted on eight counts of extortion, bribery and conspiracy.
Sentencing is set for March, although Dean and Adam Skelos are expected to appeal their convictions.
Public-employee pensions in New York are guaranteed under the state constitution even against criminal convictions. Skelos, the Rockville Centre Republican who served in the Senate since 1985 and was majority leader from 2011-2105, is in line for at least a $95,000 annual pension.
Kaminsky, while ripping Dean Skelos, touted his background as a former assistant U.S. attorney.
“As a former federal prosecutor who spent years putting corrupt politicians behind bars, I’m appalled that Dean Skelos has the gall to line his pockets with taxpayer dollars by taking a huge pension,” Kaminsky said in a statement. “I am proud to lead the fight to close this egregious loophole. This year, I sponsored legislation to ban convicted public officials from receiving pensions because taxpayers shouldn’t have to foot the bill for a convicted felon’s retirement.”
Curran took to Twitter Tuesday to rap Kaminsky’s statement.
“.@toddkaminsky eerily silent re #ShellySilver pension,” Curran wrote. “Should Speaker he voted for & hosted campaign event w be entitled to his pension? #NO.”
Republican spokesman Scott Reif noted that the Senate approved a proposed constitutional amendment earlier this year that would ban convicted lawmakers from receiving pensions while the Assembly failed to act. (The bill, it should be noted, wouldn’t apply to Skelos because it isn’t retroactive.)
“Self-professed reformer Todd Kaminsky is a fraud and a phony,” Reif said. “Either he doesn’t understand the legislative process or he is OK spinning lies to further his own political ambitions. It was Kaminsky and the New York City Democrats who failed to pass an agreed-upon measure this year to prohibit public officials convicted of felonies from receiving their pensions. While the Senate acted decisively, Kaminsky and his Assembly Democrats buried their heads in the sand. Todd Kaminsky should be ashamed of himself.”
Kaminsky, former county clerk candidate Laura Gillen and Nassau Legis. Carrié Solages (D-Elmont) are considered possible Democratic candidates to run for Skelos’ seat in special election, expected in April.
Assemb. Brian Curran (R-Lynbrook), Hempstead Town Councilman Bruce Blakeman and Nassau Legis. Howard Kopel (R-Lawrence) and Denise Ford (R-Long Beach) are among the Republican contenders.
With Skelos expelled from the Senate upon conviction, Republicans now hold 31 of the 63 seats, although Sen. Simcha Felder (D-Brooklyn) has joined the GOP conference. A five-member pack of breakaway Democrats, called the Independent Democratic Conference, has been part of a governing coalition with Republicans since 2013, but has faced pressure to return to the party fold.