Democrat Anna Kaplan announces her candidacy for New York State...

Democrat Anna Kaplan announces her candidacy for New York State Senate and is backed by New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo on Friday, April 27, 2018 in Westbury. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and State Senate Democrats’ top fundraiser appeared in Westbury Friday on behalf of new Senate candidate Anna Kaplan, signaling the importance of the race as Democrats try to regain control of the chamber.

Kaplan, a North Hempstead councilwoman, formally announced her candidacy to challenge Republican state Sen. Elaine Phillips at the Yes We Can Community Center in Westbury.

“She is exactly what we are looking for in the New York State Senate,” Cuomo said in a speech noting Kaplan’s background as a Jewish-Iranian immigrant with progressive values. “This is the most important election we are looking at right now.”

Democratic Senate Campaign Committee Chairman Michael Gianaris (D-Queens) also attended.

The event underscored the critical role the 7th District race is expected to play in the balance of power in the Senate. Three upstate Republicans have announced their retirements, and Democrats won two Senate special elections this week.

Kaplan, 52, gave a 10-minute speech in which she promised to “stand up for hardworking Long Islanders in Albany.”

She vowed not to “remain silent — I will speak out. I will speak for you. But more importantly, you will speak through me.”

Democrats renewed their push for seats in individual districts just as a third upstate senator announced his retirement.

On Friday, state Sen. John Bonacic (R-Mount Hope) became the third member of the Senate’s GOP majority to say he will retire at the end of the year.

On Thursday, state Sen. Kathy Marchione (R-Halfmoon) announced her intention to retire to care for her mother.

Senate Deputy Majority Leader John DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse) has said for weeks this will be his last year. A week ago he also suspended his bid for the Republican nomination for governor.

Currently, with these three senators, Republicans have 31 seats plus the critical support of conservative Democratic Sen. Simcha Felder of Brooklyn. Democrats have 31 seats.

Thirty-two votes control legislation in the Senate.

Democrats are eyeing the 7th Senate District — which includes most of the Town of North Hempstead, and small parts of Oyster Bay and Hempstead — particularly after party candidates won Senate special elections Tuesday in the Bronx and Westchester County.

“It is here in Nassau County where we will change the majority in the State Senate,” said Jay Jacobs, chairman of the Nassau Democratic Committee.

Phillips (R-Flower Hill) is completing her first term after succeeding Republican Jack Martins, who had occupied the seat since 2011.

Brad Schwartz, a television editor and producer from Port Washington, also is seeking the Democratic nomination in the 7th District.

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