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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

An election in the shadow of the next one

Acting Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas, on

Acting Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas, on Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2015, in Mineola. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

Considering a recent blitz of fundraising, endorsements and verbal attacks in the 1st Congressional District, one could be forgiven for mistakenly thinking rookie Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) faces voters next month rather than next year.

Day-to-day jockeying toward this contest -- to be decided in 13 months, with a Democratic primary likely beforehand -- already generates more noise in party circles than some of the races at stake on Nov. 3.

A key reason: In the electoral cycle, 2015 has to be as "off" a year as any. Call it a kind of shadow period that gives way to a titanic 2016 campaign, which in New York features the presidency, congressional seats, one U.S. Senate seat and all 213 state legislative districts.

But even as TV news networks trumpet the latest utterances of national candidates, pockets of shorter-term excitement are emerging.

The departure for Congress last January of Democrat Kathleen Rice opened the Nassau district attorney's seat to a special election next month. Acting DA Madeline Singas is running against Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray.

Singas has incumbency and strong fundraising going for her. But the dominant GOP in Murray's town will draw voters to the polls on behalf of Anthony Santino, who's the favorite to replace her, very possibly to Murray's benefit.

When ballot pickings are sparse, the size and shape of turnout becomes a bigger question. This makes life interesting for political operatives, now in full preparation mode.

The Nassau legislative races have colorful flashpoints even if Republican retention of a majority seems all but assured. In the 18th district, political novice Dean Hart, an optometrist from Glen Head, is challenging first-term Legis. Donald MacKenzie (R-Oyster Bay) with some unusual tactics.

Hart pledged to spend as much as $1 million of his own money to hire a forensic accountant to investigate concessionaire Harendra Singh's paying for travel for County Executive Edward Mangano and former deputy town attorney Frederick Mei.

A gimmicky stunt? Perhaps. But you can see the rationale for Hart ringing alarm bells. Recent corruption indictments in the town are rocking Republican Supervisor John Venditto, who faces re-election along with three of six members of his all-GOP town board. Oyster Bay's power group is expected to hold on, yet its troubles mount.

In Suffolk, at least one legislative race has an unusual twist, though of a different kind. Rookie Legis. Monica Martinez lost the Democratic nomination for the 9th District to Giovanni Mata when her petitions were voided.

Now Martinez, of Brentwood, is fighting to retain her seat by running on the Working Families and Green lines. The race in the predominantly Democratic district has no Republican candidate.

Not that local races would eclipse the entertainment value of Donald Trump's performance art. But there will be drama, here and there.

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