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Republicans pick Massapequa Park mayor for Senate District 8 race

Jeff Pravato will run against freshman Democratic State Sen. John Brooks in what could be the hottest Long Island race for the GOP to hold its senate majority.

Oyster Bay Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino, left, with

Oyster Bay Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino, left, with Massapequa Park Mayor Jeffrey Pravato, right, along with other local officials and members of the Massapequa Fire Department, helped load several truckloads of donated supplies to send to Texas as the state continues to recover from Hurricane Harvey, Thursday, Sept 7, 2017. Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Massapequa Park Mayor Jeff Pravato has emerged as the Republican state Senate candidate who will run against freshman Democratic State Sen. John Brooks, an upset winner two years ago in what is likely to be the hottest Long Island race for the GOP to hold its Senate majority.

Pravato, 49, a 25-year financial industry veteran and, since January, deputy Oyster Bay public works commissioner, was chosen by the Nassau Republican executive committee late last week when former veteran Assemb. Steve Labriola, now a deputy county clerk, bowed out.

Pravato, mayor for five years and a trustee for a decade, said he expected to be “the favorite” in the race to help preserve the fragile GOP Senate majority.

“All eyes are going to be on this race,” said Pravato, whose village makes up about 15 percent of Senate District 8. “We need to have checks and balances in the state, and voters realize we can’t have Democrats controlling every branch of government. . . . The last time they were in charge, they gave us the MTA tax . . . and we can’t let it happen again.”

He also criticized Brooks for backing “sanctuary cities” and free college tuition for people in the country illegally.

Liz Barnard, Brooks’ spokeswoman, said Brooks had “fought to combat corruption . . . works tirelessly to lower taxes,” voting 73 times against tax hikes and made sure the region gets a “fair share” of state aid. “Empowering corrupt machine politicians like Jeff Pravato would be a step backwards,” she said.

The selection comes after Senate Democrats earlier this month announced plans to reunify with eight Democratic dissidents, leaving Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan with just a 32-31 edge with Brooklyn Democrat Simcha Felder, who caucuses with the GOP. Special elections in two Senate seats next week also could shift the balance.

Pravato said he decided in the last few weeks to enter the race after Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan reached out to him. Labriola, who last year narrowly lost a race for Nassau comptroller after winning 10 straight campaigns for assemblyman and Oyster Bay Town clerk, had a fundraiser in February to explore a new run. In a statement, Labriola called Pravato “the right person to tackle the corruption and tax and spend policies that plague our State Capital.”

Scott Reif, Flanagan’s spokesman, said Pravato had a “great record” as mayor, while Brooks was vulnerable. “He’s the accidental senator,” he said, referring to Brooks upset win two years ago.

But Jay Jacobs, Nassau Democratic chairman, questioned the Republicans’ decision to choose an Oyster Bay Town official amid the ongoing corruption trial of former town Supervisor John Venditto and former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano. Brooks beat Venditto’s son, Michael, a freshman senator, shortly after his father’s indictment.

“Anything associated with Oyster Bay Republicans is radioactive,” Jacobs said. “Someone who works for Oyster Bay government in public works is just terrific for the Democrats. If I were on the other side, I’d be looking for someone with no association with what’s going on now in federal court.”

But Joseph Mondello, Nassau GOP chairman, called Pravato “an outstanding mayor,” adding, “In Albany he will be a strong advocate for our suburban interests and fight tenaciously to ensure we receive a fair share of state education aid.”

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