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It’s friend v. friend in 3rd Senate District race

Two GOP Assemblymen — Andrew Garbarino and Dean Murray — want the seat, but say it won’t come to a primary.

Andrew Garbarino, left, and Dean Murray, both Republican

Andrew Garbarino, left, and Dean Murray, both Republican Assemblymen, are leading contenders for the 3rd District State Senate seat. Photo Credit: James Escher

Republican Assemb. Andrew Garbarino is calling potential donors and has commissioned his own poll. “You don’t dive into the deep end of the pool without testing the water,” he said.

His Assembly colleague Dean Murray said he is “working the phones” and telling backers, “No one will outwork me.”

The two, who are friends, have emerged as leading GOP contenders for the 3rd District State Senate seat that Republican Tom Croci is vacating at year’s end to return to the U.S. Navy.

Both say it’s crucial to Long Island to keep the Senate Republican, and away from New York City Democrats.

They also agree there will be no primary, because that battle would force each to give up his safe Assembly seat to wage an uncertain September election that only one can win.

The fragile State Senate Republican majority, which will provide most of the funding for the GOP candidate and have major input on the selection, also is doing its own polling.

The 3rd District straddles the Brookhaven-Islip border, and GOP officials in both towns, who will have the final say on the party candidate, have vowed to stay united at the May 31 Suffolk Republican convention.

Brookhaven GOP chairman Jesse Garcia, whose town has 55 percent of the district, said town parties in the past have put aside parochial differences. He noted the parties agreed to name Republican Lee Zeldin of Shirley, now a congressman, to take back the 1st Congressional District seat in 2010. Later, they ran Croci, who was Islip Town supervisor, to succeed Zeldin in 2014.

“We want to help the State Senate Republicans make the race for this seat easy, so they can go out and be in the majority” in the rest of the state.

Garbarino, 33, a lawyer from Bayport, is the more low-key of the two.

He is also the son of Islip Republican chairman William Garbarino, who would love to see his son advance.

Andrew Garbarino said that although his father’s position “doesn’t hurt,” he noted that he first won election before his father became party leader. Garbarino also has a reputation for being able to raise money, gathering $130,000 early on for his first Assembly race six years ago.

Murray, 53, of East Patchogue, who owns an ad agency, is more outspoken and first won election touting his ties to the Tea Party.

For instance, when Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced new fees in this year’s budget, Murray remarked, “There seems to be no end to his creativity in finding ways to hammer New Yorkers.” Murray served in the Assembly for seven years, lost his seat in 2013 but regained it two years later.

“Andrews is a very methodical individual and brings that training to the job,” said Desmond Ryan, a veteran Republican business lobbyist. “Dean can be outspoken and has a ‘Type-A’ personality on some issues.” But Murray’s electoral comeback also “shows he has the stamina of a racehorse,” Ryan said.

Suffolk Democratic chairman Richard Schaffer, meanwhile, is backing first-time candidate Darrin Green, 52, a Nassau correction officer from Brentwood, in the 3rd District race.

State Sen. Michael Gianaris, head of Senate Democrats’ campaign committee, said he still was looking elsewhere for a prime-time contender. However, Gianaris also said he had arranged to meet with Green.

Gianaris warned Republicans should not be overconfident.

“The problem Republicans have on Long Island is that massive property tax hikes are coming thanks to the tax plan that passed in Washington, eliminating tens of thousands of dollars in deductions,” he said. “Republicans are going to have to answer for that.”

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