Former Nassau Legis. Dave Denenberg leaves federal court in Central Islip...

Former Nassau Legis. Dave Denenberg leaves federal court in Central Islip in 2015 after being sentenced to prison for bilking a legal client out of $2.3 million. Credit: Ed Betz

Dave Denenberg, a Merrick Democrat and eight-term Nassau County legislator who stepped down in 2015 to plead guilty to felony mail fraud, has entered the 4th Congressional District race.   

His campaign filed a statement of candidacy on Wednesday, according to the Federal Election Commission website. Denenberg is the sixth Democrat to seek his party's nomination in the November election to challenge first-term Rep. Anthony D'Esposito (R-Island Park). 

Other Democratic candidates include State Sen. Kevin Thomas, former Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen, Gian Jones of Woodmere, Baldwin resident Patricia Maher and Lawrence Patrick Henry of Baldwin.

The 4th District covers central and southern Nassau County. Political experts say it’s among the most vulnerable Republican House seats.

"I would like to make a difference for the people in this district. We are faced with so many issues and rather than putting people first, our current elected officials put partisan interests first," Denenberg told Newsday. "The House was the most unproductive House in history and there's a constant partisan bickering. People want progress." 

Denenberg, 59, served three months in a New Jersey minimum security federal prison for overcharging a client by $2.3 million when he was an attorney with Davidoff Hutcher & Citron. He served another three months of house arrest. 

The Garden City law firm sued him in September 2014 while he was a candidate for State Senate, forcing him out of that race. He pleaded guilty to eight felony counts of mail fraud and resigned in January 2015. 

A felony conviction prohibits him from running for a seat on the county legislature but not in Congress, according to county and federal laws. 

"Yes, I made mistakes and I have more than paid the price and did my restitution over the last 10 years with the help of my wife, family and friends and through community service. I'm focused now on the future, not the past," Denenberg said. 

Denenberg said he has spent the last decade focused mostly on environmental advocacy, mainly addressing issues affecting Nassau's South Shore. As a congressional candidate, he said he would continue to advocate for more federal funding to prevent beach erosion on the South Shore and for other water and environmental projects. He said he would prioritize issues such as inflation and cost of living, national security, election reform and gun control. He supports codifying abortion rights through a Constitutional amendment and is pro-Israel, he said. 

Denenberg does not appear to have the backing of state and Nassau County Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs, who has not yet said publicly which Democrat the committee supports.

"He didn't ask for my advice but I would've advised against it," Jacobs said. "It's going to be a very tough race and we need to be focusing on candidates who at the very least have no clear liabilities and unfortunately Dave's got some. I don't think it's a good idea for him but maybe there's something for him in the future." 

Denenberg said: "We are going to actively be campaigning for Congress. If we find in the next several weeks that we are not able to put together the finances to continue, we will decide on the best course then." 

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