Nassau Democrats are making a push to retain a key legislative seat in November, running Oyster Bay Democratic leader David Gugerty as their candidate in the 18th District on the county's North Shore, party officials disclosed Thursday.
Gugerty, 51, of Bayville, is chief of staff to Democrats in the county legislature. He will challenge Republican Donald MacKenzie, 43, a commissioner in the Oyster Bay Water District, for the open seat. Legis. Delia DeRiggi-Whitton, a Democrat who represents the area, will run in the 11th District under new legislative lines drawn by the GOP.
"Given my strong skill set, I felt like this was the perfect time to run in a district that I've lived in almost all my life," Gugerty said.
The Democrats' first candidate in the 18th District, middle school teacher Kathleen Reilly of Locust Valley, dropped out of the race for personal reasons, officials said.
Democrats said Gugerty's candidacy represents their best chance to win the remapped 18th District, where the GOP holds a significant voter registration advantage -- 20,284 registered Republicans, compared with 15,196 Democrats and 12,689 with no party affiliation.
But GOP chairman Joseph Mondello said he is confident the GOP will win the seat.
"There's as much a chance of Dave Gugerty winning this race as there is of Barack Obama resigning to become a professional bowler," Mondello said in a statement, referring to a campaign appearance in the 2008 presidential campaign where Obama bowled a 37. "It's pure fantasy."
Republicans hold a 10-9 majority in the legislature. County Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs concedes that to win control of the chamber, Democrats will need to win the 18th and also the 13th District, held by legislative Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow). Democrats are running Edward J. Kraus, a commissioner and former chief of the North Bellmore Fire Department, for the seat.
A licensed attorney, Gugerty served four terms on Bayville's board of trustees, was a member of Nassau's Civil Service Commission and was counsel to Democrats in the legislature. Gugerty, whose wife, Helene, is a County Court judge, earns $149,425 in his legislative job. The part-time job of county legislator pays $39,500 a year.