The Nassau Legislature votes for the proposed 2012 budget. (Oct....

The Nassau Legislature votes for the proposed 2012 budget. (Oct. 30, 2011) Credit: Howard Schnapp

Every seat in the Nassau County Legislature will be up for grabs on Nov. 8 as voters head to the polls for an election that could determine the political makeup of the chamber for years to come.

While no countywide, statewide or federal races are at the top of the ballot, the legislative election is nonetheless key: The party in control next year will play the lead role in redrawing county legislative boundaries during the once-per-decade redistricting process. Republicans currently have an 11-8 advantage in the legislature.

This year's election has other potential ramifications. Republicans must increase their number by two to obtain a two-thirds majority in the legislature, providing them a clear path to borrow funds without Democratic approval. Bonding, however, would still require the approval of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, a state monitoring agency in control of the county's finances.

Democrats, meanwhile, need two more seats to regain the majority in the legislature. That would let them block the priorities of Republican County Executive Edward Mangano, who is not up for re-election until 2013.

Longtime election observers see neither outcome as likely. "This has the feel of a status quo election," said Lawrence Levy, executive dean of the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University. "I don't see some mass revolt against one party or another."

To retake the majority, Democrats want to pin the county's budgetary woes -- Nassau is facing a projected $310 million deficit for 2012 -- on Republican incumbents. "Republicans made this mess," said Jay Jacobs, chairman of the Nassau and state Democratic parties. "And you can't separate Mangano from Republican legislators. They vote in lockstep."

But county GOP chairman Joseph Mondello has instructed his candidates to keep their message simple and focused on taxes. "Normally everything in politics is local," Mondello said. "But not this year. Taxes override everything."

He noted Republicans came to power two years ago on a pledge not to raise taxes, and kept the promise. Mondello says if Democrats regain the majority, they would raise property taxes, a charge Jacobs rejects.

Both sides agree that only six of the 19 legislative races appear to be legitimately in play.

Democrats are pouring their resources primarily into four districts held by Republicans: the 3rd District, held by John Ciotti; the 4th District, held by Denise Ford; the 7th District, held by Howard Kopel, and the 14th District, held by Joseph Belesi.

Levy said the best chance for an upset could come in Ciotti's district, where former Human Rights Commissioner Carrie Solages has waged a strong campaign. The race gained widespread attention after a Ciotti volunteer was captured on video making racial remarks to Solages' sister, a campaign worker. Ciotti disavowed the volunteer's actions and banned him from the campaign.

Republicans are targeting the 5th District seat held by Legis. Joseph Scannell and the 18th District, an open seat where incumbent Diane Yatauro is not running for re-election. The district leans heavily Democratic.

 

Who's running in Nassau legislative races

 

District 1: Legis. Kevan Abrahams (D); Rodney McRae (R)

District 2: Legis. Robert Troiano (D); Karin Campbell (R)

District 3: Carrie Solages (D); Legis. John Ciotti (R)

District 4: Darlene Tangney (D); Legis. Denise Ford (R)

District 5: Legis. Joseph Scannell (D); Christian Browne (R)

District 6: Anthony Gonzalez (D); Legis. Francis Becker (R)

District 7: Adam Moser (D); Legis. Howard Kopel (R)

District 8: Scott Milano (D); Legis. Vincent Muscarella (R)

District 9: Jason Watson (D); Legis. Richard Nicolello (R)

District 10: Legis. Judi Bosworth (D); Elizabeth Berney (R)

District 11: Legis. Wayne Wink (D); Eric Zausner (R)

District 12: John Rennhack (D); Legis. Peter Schmitt (R)

District 13: Patricia Maher (D); Legis. Norma Gonsalves (R)

District 14: Eva Pearson (D); Legis. Joseph Belesi (R)

District 15: Ethan Irwin (D); Legis. Dennis Dunne (R)

District 16: Legis. Judy Jacobs (D); James Milano (R)

District 17: Frederick Hagemann (D); Legis. Rose Marie Walker (R)

District 18: Delia DeRiggi-Whitton (D); Robert Germino (R)

District 19: Legis. David Denenberg (D); Fred Jones (R)

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