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Christopher McGrath, Todd Kaminsky spar over Skelos, ethics

Assemb. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) and Christopher McGrath,

Assemb. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) and Christopher McGrath, of Hewlett, are running to fill the seat of former state Senate leader Dean Skelos. Credit: Gabby Recny; Rick Kopstein

Christopher McGrath, the Republican candidate for the seat of former State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, released his fifth television ad of the campaign on Thursday in advance of the April 19 special election.

His opponent, Assemb. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), on Thursday touted his ethics agenda while criticizing McGrath for saying recently that Skelos “did a very good job” while in the Senate.

McGrath, an attorney from Hewlett, and Kaminsky are vying for the 9th District Senate seat, which was vacated in December when Skelos was convicted on federal corruption charges. He and his son, Adam, who also was convicted in the case, are appealing.

The special election could determine the balance of power in the State Senate, now controlled by Republicans and a coalition of independent Democrats.

In his latest 30-second ad, titled “Let’s Do This Together,” McGrath warns that a vote for Kaminsky would allow New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to siphon tax dollars away from Long Island families.

“We can just watch as critical funds are taken from our Long Island schools and given to New York City schools,” McGrath says in the ad. “Or we say never again. I’m not a politician. I’m your neighbor. And I’m ready to fight for term limits, end the corruption and make sure we start getting our fair share.”

McGrath has said that when Democrats controlled the Senate in 2009 and 2010 — along with the Assembly and the governor’s office — Long Islanders saw a new MTA payroll tax and the elimination of property tax rebate checks.

Kaminsky responded by criticizing McGrath for campaigning on “fear.” Kaminsky said he would “never harm our ability to get school funding.”

In conference call with reporters Thursday, Kaminsky criticized McGrath for his statements in an interview with the Long Island Herald newspaper. McGrath told the weekly that Skelos “helped a lot of people. He did a very good job when he was there.”

Kaminsky said McGrath has not been forceful enough in denouncing Skelos’ crimes.

“Chris McGrath does not believe corruption is a real concern,” Kaminsky said. “There is an unprecedented level of corruption in the state and he doesn’t take it seriously.”

In an interview with Newsday Tuesday, McGrath said he has never socialized or worked with Skelos. But he said Skelos did “good things” in the community, “and I admired him for that.”

McGrath said Skelos “made a mistake with respect to his family and he paid the ultimate price. And I do feel bad for his family that they are going through this.”

Kaminsky said his ethics proposals would strip the pensions of elected officials convicted on public corruption charges — a policy supported by McGrath — and provide local district attorneys with more resources to fight corruption.

Kaminsky also wants to ban state lawmakers from earning most forms of outside income. McGrath has said he plans to continue practicing law if elected. McGrath also supports term limits for state elected officials.

Laurence Hirsh, an accountant from Valley Stream, also is running for the 9th District seat on the Green Party line.

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