Could last week’s conviction of State Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) on federal corruption charges speed the demise of the region’s powerful Republican Senate delegation, known as the Long Island Nine? After all, the political landscape in Nassau and Suffolk, and New York State, is changing rapidly.
It is possible that the state senate could fall under Democratic control, potentially leaving local Republicans scrambling.
A special election for Skelos’ seat could be April 19, the date Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has set for an election to replace former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who also was found guilty of federal corruption charges. The Skelos’ are expected to appeal.
The election would be a pivot point for the state Senate — one that will determine whether Long Island’s GOP delegation will continue in the majority, and in a power sharing arrangement with a group of independent Democrats led by Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx).
One likely candidate for Skelos’ seat is Todd Kaminsky, a freshman Democratic assemblyman and former federal prosecutor. Kaminsky’s likely hoping that residents will vote as they did in November — when the majority-Republican district, in a record low-turnout, passed up veteran Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray, a Republican, in favor or first-time office seeker, Madeline Singas, a Democrat, in the county district attorney race.
But the Republican primary for president also is on April 19, and the volatile contest could draw a big turnout. That could boost the prospects of potential Republican contenders for the Skelos seat, such as Assemb. Brian Curran of Lynbrook.
Either way, the victor will have to run again for a full term in November of a U. S. presidential election year, when turnout for Democrats typically is high.
Klein has said that he will continue to work with John Flanagan, a Northport Republican who succeeded Skelos as GOP majority leader. Down the line, it will become imperative that Long Island sustain such coalitions if the region hopes to keep a seat at Albany’s ridiculously small power table, which skews heavily toward New York City Democrats.
Consider: Long Island has never sent a governor to Albany (Theodore Roosevelt doesn’t count, because he considered himself from New York City). And, since 1777, only four Long Islanders (one from Nassau and three from Suffolk) have led the assembly chamber — the last in 1975, when Perry Duryea became the last Republican Assembly speaker.
As for the Senate, Skelos was only the second Long Islander (the first was Ralph Marino) to head the chamber.
With his conviction, Skelos automatically lost his seat. And while the region’s remaining Republican senators continue to hold important leadership positions — as some of them have, for decades — and continue to do the job of fighting to ensure that the region gets its fair shar, that clout won’t last forever.
What comes next? How can the region protect itself?
The planning should start now.