NYers at GOP convention: Shaking the blue-state blues

Dan Janison

Melville. N.Y. Tuesday January 26, 2010. Daniel Janison, Dan Janison

Dan Janison has been a reporter at Newsday for 10

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CLEARWATER BEACH, FLA.

New York's Republican delegates -- the most vocal of them, anyway -- began their stay here 25 miles west of the Tampa convention center sounding as upbeat as any GOP crew could when trying to shake the blue-state blues.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) stood Monday before more than 250 breakfast guests representing the GOP's singular source of statewide power.

State party chairman Edward Cox was working with what he had in introducing Skelos.

Cox cited a list of the 10 most Democratic-dominated states, with New York right up there with Massachusetts. Cox noted that of the 20 legislative houses in those states, only one rests in Republicans hands -- the New York Senate.

Nobody would mention from this rostrum the GOP majority's past accommodations to public-employee unions. Or the Senate leader's having declined to block a "conscience" vote that led the way to legalizing gay marriage. Or the Republican conference's practical if not utterly cordial dealings with Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

For one thing, that stuff would have sounded politically incorrect here -- even if, back home, it is just practical business. New York's whole executive branch, including the offices of governor, comptroller and attorney general, belongs to Democrats, as does the Assembly.

For Skelos, the talk seemed to mark a unique if quick foray into national partisanship. He stuck to what he described as "core Republican values" of "less spending, lower taxes, accountability and leadership" that encourage private-sector employment.

He jibed at Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand as wavering between Annie Oakley and Jane Fonda, though everyone in the room acknowledged the steep climb faced by her challenger Wendy Long. Skelos noted how the GOP congressional delegation grew two years ago. And he said: "Instead of making things better, the president's policies have made things worse," and declared fidelity to the Romney-Ryan ticket.

Obama, of course, is widely expected to win in New York in November. Then again, so is Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), a longtime Nassau compatriot of Skelos'. Skelos praised King's outspoken role chairing the House Homeland Security Committee.

Then Skelos turned the speech to the legislature. "If the Democrats win back the Senate majority, chaos and dysfunction will return to Albany," he warned. "And the Senate Democrats in New York are beyond a disaster. We're reading about it in the press today." It was an obvious reference to Queens Democratic Sen. Shirley Huntley being criminally charged in an alleged scheme to channel money through a phony nonprofit for personal use.

Nassau Chairman Joseph Mondello said: "The demographics of the state of New York, as you know, are against us. We've got to work very hard for whatever we've got. Everything besides the Senate is in the hands of Democrats, and I believe it's important that somebody watches the store -- that it's not just all one party."

As for issues where the state delegates might sound discordant with Republicans elsewhere in America, Sen. Martin Golden (R-Brooklyn) of Skelos' conference stayed determinedly on message.

"The whole focus in the presidential election is that cliff we're heading for -- the real possibility that we're going into a double-dip recession," said Golden, who's one of two state senators now representing parts of the biggest Democratic county.

"That's where the focus should be, not on blue states and red states."