3 late-starting -- and hot -- Assembly races

Landon Peterson peeks out of the voting booth Landon Peterson peeks out of the voting booth while his mother votes in this file photo. (March 20, 2012) Photo Credit: Getty Images

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Suffolk's most competitive State Assembly races are contests that got to the starting line late and are in an all-out sprint to Election Day.

The hottest race involves the 10th District seat, which had been held by the late James Conte, a 24-year Assembly veteran. Two newcomers -- Republican Chad Lupinacci and Democrat Joseph Dujmic Jr. -- are vying to succeed him.

Meanwhile on the South Shore, a last-minute switch by Assemb. Philip Boyle (R-Bay Shore) to seek to replace retiring GOP Sen. Owen Johnson of West Babylon created an open seat in the 7th District. There, former Islip Town board member Christopher Bodkin, a Republican-turned-Democrat, is facing attorney Andrew Garbarino, who's been active in revitalizing Islip's GOP.

Former Brookhaven Town board member Edward Hennessey, another Republican-turned-Democrat, also made a late entry into the 3rd District race to take on GOP Assemb. Dean Murray, seeking his second full term.

Those contests, however, will do nothing to dilute the Assembly Democrats' 99-45 supermajority (with one vacancy) because all three seats have been in GOP hands.

Dujmic and Lupinacci, both 33, are lawyers, live in Huntington Station and are making their first run for state office. Dujmic, a former assistant county attorney, now handles family law cases. Lupinacci, whose family goes back several generations in Huntington, is a full-time faculty member at Farmingdale State College and also teaches at Hofstra University.

The Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee has invested $31,000 in the race for Dujmic, while the Republican Assembly Campaign Committee has spent $32,000 on Lupinacci. Dujmic, who has been campaigning since early this year, has raised $62,700 and has $4,011 for the last week. Lupinacci, who started later, said he has raised about $42,000 and has about $7,500 on hand.

Dujmic attacks Lupinacci for favoring what he termed a "parent tax" to allow schools to charge for extracurricular activities and sports. Lupinacci said he only wants to give school boards the power to solicit corporate sponsorships to keep school costs down.

"He's trying turn it into something which is anti-family, but the people in my community understand my position," he said. Lupinacci said his experience as both a former aide to Conte and his eight years on the South Huntington school board make him more familiar with state government and school needs.

In the 7th District, Garbarino, 28, of Sayville, has worked on local campaigns since he was 14 helping his father, William, who ran losing county legislature races both against Steve Levy and William Lindsay. Garbarino has raised nearly $104,000, including a $25,000 loan, and has $31,175 on hand for the final 11 days. Assembly Republicans have also spent $37,700 for Garbarino.

Bodkin, 65, of West Sayville, has raised $15,943 -- $12,754 still on hand -- and says he is running a shoe-leather campaign but has the advantage of being known for 16 years as an Islip Town board member. He lost his town board seat in 2009 after switching parties to Democrat.

Garbarino said his momentum is building. Garbarino also says he is helped by being on the ballot between state Sen. Lee Zeldin and Legis. Edward Romaine, the GOP candidate for Brookhaven supervisor.

In the 3rd District, Hennessey, 50, a lawyer and former GOP Brookhaven Town board member, is also trying to make a comeback after losing a three-way town board race as a Democrat in 2007. Hennessey of East Moriches has filed no reports showing he has spent any campaign money, while Murray of East Patchogue has raised $56,100 and has $28,340 on hand. Assembly Republicans have also spent nearly $15,000 on his race.

While the recent reapportionment moved the district eastward, areas that Hennessey long represented, Murray's backers say he has worked his district hard and is known all along Brookhaven's south shore.

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