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NY Senate races to decide who'll win majority

Members of the State Senate work in the

Members of the State Senate work in the Senate Chamber as the legislative session winds down at the Capitol in Albany. (June 20, 2012) Credit: AP

Republicans are looking to maintain control of the State Senate by sweeping all nine races on Long Island, while Democrats are selectively targeting contests for Election Day.

The GOP currently holds a 33-29 edge in the Senate, thanks in large part to winning every Island seat in 2010 and knocking off two incumbent Democrats in the process. The GOP believes it's well-positioned to sweep the Island again.

"A Republican Senate has been good for Long Island, and we feel very strongly that we're going to maintain all nine seats," said Scott Reif, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre).

Democrats have set their sights a bit lower: They want to pick off one district in Nassau County and one in Suffolk County as part of their statewide game plan to regain Senate control. Democratic spokesman Mike Murphy said that "Senate Republicans have moved far to the right, away from the average New Yorker" and that more voters prefer Democrats to run the chamber.

In Suffolk's most highly watched Senate race, Assemb. Philip Boyle (R-Bay Shore) faces Democratic county Legis. Rick Montano of Brentwood to succeed retiring Republican state Sen. Owen Johnson.

Boyle says the state is "on the right track" since a Republican-led Senate helped Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo cut state spending, enacted a property-tax cap and partially rolled back the unpopular MTA payroll tax. He also says Long Island schools will lose out on state education aid if a New York City-centric Democratic conference takes over the chamber.

Montano says that he, too, will fight for school aid and that Republicans are blocking bills to strengthen gun control and raise the minimum wage.

In Nassau County, the most visible race pits state Sen. Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City), a 12-year incumbent, against newcomer Ryan Cronin, a Democrat. Hannon easily beat a Democrat in 2010, a big year for the GOP, but had a narrower margin of victory in 2008 -- a presidential election year like this one. Democrats are hoping a strong turnout will help Cronin.

Hannon and Cronin have campaigned on the same issues as Boyle and Montano. But in this race, NARAL Pro-Choice New York has strongly worked for the Democrat. NARAL has sent out several mailers in the district supporting Cronin as pro-abortion rights. It's also recently come out with radio ads bashing Hannon, chairman of the Senate Health Committee.

At the eastern end of Suffolk County, Democrat Bridget Fleming of Southampton has raised about $150,000 -- a figure many challengers don't reach -- in her efforts against state Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson). But Republicans say they're confident LaValle will prevail.

In other races, Lee Zeldin and Jack Martins, the Island's two rookie GOP state senators, were once expected to face strong challenges, but that never materialized. Democrats have selected unknown challengers, with Francis Genco facing Zeldin and Daniel C. Ross taking on Martins.

Ross has reported raising little money besides a $75,000 loan from himself to his campaign. Genco hasn't reported raising any funds. Zeldin has concentrated on launching a new political-action committee to help first-time Republican candidates throughout the state.

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