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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Republicans may have bigger stake in NY primary than Democrats

State Democratic leaders are backing Hillary Clinton, here

State Democratic leaders are backing Hillary Clinton, here at a town-hall meeting in Portsmouth, New Hampshire on Dec. 29, 2015, but she may have the nomination sewn up by the time New York's primary is held. Photo Credit: EPA / CJ Gunther

Republicans are more likely than Democrats to have something on the line when New York holds presidential primaries on April 19, according to operatives of both major parties.

By then, the Hillary Clinton campaign, based in New York City, hopes to have at least a tentative grip on the Democratic nomination.

And even if Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders lasts as a contender, New York party bigs will be committed to Clinton. In 2008, with her rival Sen. Barack Obama on his way to winning, her home state gave Clinton, its junior U.S. senator, 58 percent.

The GOP contest promises more volatility in part because of New York-based billionaire Donald Trump’s so-far disruptive candidacy.

“Generally, I think there will be three or four candidates still in the mix by April,” said Anthony Casale, an adviser to state Republican chairman Edward Cox, who is staying neutral in the fray. “I think we’ll be in play.”

This state joins the national process late. Early contests in Iowa (Feb. 1), New Hampshire (Feb. 9) and South Carolina (Feb. 20) are likely to give shape to both party contests. The 14-state Super Tuesday (March 1) primaries come a full 49 days before New York’s.

Nassau County Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs, a Clinton partisan and member of the national party committee, said: “It could be the Republicans are settled by mid-April or it could be a free-for-all. It’s fascinating — New York could be very important for the Republicans.”

On one front, Jacobs said, “that makes me nervous.” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is expected to schedule, for the same day as the presidential primary, the special election for a successor to convicted ex-state Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre). A competitive presidential primary could boost GOP turnout in Nassau’s 9th Senate District, providing a possible edge for the party’s candidate.

If Republicans gain an advantage in one key special election, however, the party’s players will still need to worry about November, when they seek to hold on to their last state power base — the Senate in Albany.

Say, for example, that Texas Sen. Ted Cruz becomes the Republican presidential nominee. On Long Island, Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) is already on the record calling the candidate a “big mouth,” who in his Washington career has “led the Republican Party over the cliff” and “doesn’t provide leadership.”

So Republican candidates for the State Legislature and local office next year could face the danger of appearing on a ballot with a national nominee who is particularly unpopular among the state’s mainstream voters. In 2010, a number of party members after Election Day blamed the irascible Carl Paladino, nominee for governor, for having hindered the rest of the GOP ticket.

Paladino is backing Trump. He wrote in a letter to fellow Republicans: “Donald Trump isn’t a career politician beholden to the special interests that have damaged and weakened our once great nation.”

Which sounds similar to what Paladino said of himself — before decisively losing this largely blue state to Cuomo.

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