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Long IslandNassau

James Kennedy sworn in as new Nassau legislator

James Kennedy, center, is accompanied by his wife

James Kennedy, center, is accompanied by his wife Samantha and 3 year-old son Logan as he is officially sworn in as one of the two newest Nassau County legislators. Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

Republican James Kennedy was sworn in Monday as the newest Nassau County legislator, as the GOP inched toward the legislative supermajority it hasn't held in 16 years.

Kennedy, of Massapequa, the son-in-law of the late GOP Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt, took his oath of office in front of family including his wife, Samantha, 3-year-old son Logan, and Schmitt's widow, Lois.

"I'm so honored," Kennedy told the crowd in Mineola.

"Peter is looking down on this day," Lois Schmitt said.

Kennedy, a GOP staffer at the county Board of Elections, defeated Democrat Joseph Stufano in the 12th District special election on Feb. 24 by a wide margin. The seat -- which covers Farmingdale and Massapequa -- was vacated on Jan. 1 when former Legis. Michael Venditto (R-Massapequa) took his seat in the State Senate.

Venditto had served the 12th District since late 2012, replacing Schmitt after his death. Schmitt had represented the 12th District since the county legislature's inception in 1996.

Kennedy gives Republicans an 11-7 legislative majority. That will grow to 12-7 when 19th District Legis. Steven Rhoads (R-Bellmore) is sworn in. Rhoads won a special election last week, but results in that race aren't yet certified.

The addition of Rhoads and Kennedy put Republicans one seat away from the supermajority that would allow approval of borrowing without Democratic votes. Currently, the GOP negotiates with Democrats to gain the minimum of 13 votes needed to OK borrowing and put emergency items on legislative agendas.

Republicans haven't had a supermajority since 1999, but their recent wins only add to Democrats' new vulnerability.

One of their lawmakers, Legis. Ellen Birnbaum (D-Great Neck), has been barred from the caucus after making racially insensitive remarks early last year. Some lawmakers speculate that Republicans may try to persuade her to caucus with them.

Birnbaum declined to comment Monday when asked if she'd been approached by the majority to secure her support. A Republican source said he didn't believe they would court her.

Nassau Democratic Party chairman Jay Jacobs said, "Ellen is sticking with the Democrats. I'm confident we'll be able to work things out, and we'll be able to hold the line."


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