Pinch me.

Because two state lawmakers, both Nassau County Republicans, are giving up their seats. Leaving not one, but two, state Assembly seats up for grabs.

This does not happen - nope, check that - this almost never happens in Nassau County, where the last time voters saw an open state Assembly race was a decade ago.

That's when Assemb. Robert Barra (R-Lynbrook), who, with Assemb. Thomas Alfano (R-North Valley Stream), is retiring from office this year, was first elected to serve in Albany.

In Nassau, for decades, the Republican Party raised the concept of continuity to a high art. The usual way was by elevating the party faithful to increasingly higher office via a well-choreographed move called "the chairs."

Take Barra, for example. He started out as a Lynbrook village board member until he was tapped for an appointment to the Hempstead Town board - to replace a board member who had stepped down early to be appointed to another office.

The appointment allowed Barra to then seek office, a few months later, as an "incumbent" - a tactic Republicans used with offices ranging from town board to former Republican County Executive Thomas Gulotta.

But "the chairs" won't work for State Legislature, where unfinished terms are filled via special election. So, what's the party to do?

Well, that's simple, too. Let the incumbent step down early, then spend the money for a special election. That's how all but one current Nassau Republican state Assembly member - including Alfano - first got into the office.

This time around, however, the Nassau Republican Party has decided to cast its fate to the wind by passing up the chance for a special election.

Instead, Barra and Alfano will finish out their terms - and leave Republican and Democratic candidates to fight each other in the general election to replace them.

Is this - finally - democracy at work in Nassau?

Um, no, not really, say Republican party officials, because Alfano and Barra represent heavily Republican districts.

And with anti-Democrat sentiment so high, they said, the general election looks so good for Republicans that it would be silly to waste about $100,000 in party funds on two special elections - only to turn around a few months later to spend more money in a general campaign.

Jay Jacobs, the state and Nassau County Democratic Party chairman, agreed.

Sort of.

"The Republicans generally do run a special election for these kinds of things," he said. "But they are expensive, so I'm not crying that we are not having a special election."

He said he believes, however, that Democrats have a chance at taking at least Alfano's district. "We're going to be competitive," he said. "We're going to fight."

Which represents an irony here. It's strange that it's strange to have two competitive races for state Assembly.

This year, shouldn't every seat in aggressively dysfunctional Albany be up for a fight? No matter who - or what party - sits in it?

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