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Denenberg will stay on State Senate ballot, says Jay Jacobs

Democratic Legislator Dave Denenberg as he announces run

Democratic Legislator Dave Denenberg as he announces run for the State Senate Thursday March 6, 2014 at the American Legion Post in Seaford. Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

The Nassau County Democratic leader said Monday that embattled Nassau Legis. David Denenberg (D-Merrick) will stay on the ballot in the race for State Senate against fellow Legis. Michael Venditto (R-Massapequa).

Chairman Jay Jacobs said he made the decision against switching Denenberg to a State Supreme Court judicial race because of the difficulty of mounting a strong campaign for a substitute senate candidate five weeks before the election.

"With the time left to mount a credible campaign, with resources best directed toward the most winnable races, a few of which compete in Nassau County, and with the chances of winning the 8th senatorial seat now so significantly diminished, the smart decision is to move on to fight the races we can and will win," Jacobs said. "Our full efforts will now be directed to electing Adam Haber, Bruce Kennedy and Ethan Irwin to the State Senate."

The three Democrats are challenging Republican incumbents Jack Martin of Mineola, Carl Marcellino of Syosset and Kemp Hannon of Garden City.

Jacobs said he does not expect Denenberg to actively campaign for the vacant seat even though he remains on the ballot.

"I tried to get off the ballot. I'm still hoping that I can get off," Denenberg said Monday, noting the deadline to nominate a candidate for a vacant judicial slot is Tuesday. "There's still one more day. Let's see what happens," he said, declining further comment.

Denenberg said last week he would withdraw from the race after his former law firm accused him in a lawsuit of defrauding a client of more than $2 million by billing for "fictitious services." Denenberg said he did not want to subject his family and the electorate to "outrageous allegations," but did not specifically deny them. The law firm also asked the U.S. attorney's office to investigate.

State Senate co-leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) had attacked Jacobs for considering the ballot substitution as "total disrespect for our judicial system by nominating this criminal to a Supreme Court judgeship" while one of the Senate lawyers, former Nassau County Attorney John Ciampoli, contended the move could be a felony.

The Senate seat vacated by Charles Fuschillo in January is critical for state Republicans and Democrats, who are vying for control of the closely divided chamber.

The tactic of moving a candidate to an open Supreme Court race to get someone off another ballot line is permitted under election law and has been used many times in the past by both parties. Ciampoli declined to accept an Independence Party ballot line for State Supreme Court upstate to make way for a substitute in 2007.

Ciampoli said Monday his case was different. "Nobody accused me of high crimes and misdemeanors causing me to withdraw from a Senate race," he said.

Jacobs said the Republican attacks did not affect his decision.

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