State Republican Party stalwarts like to tell you how much they like Lee Zeldin’s chances to unseat first-term state Sen. Brian Foley (D-Blue Point). By phone Thursday, Sen. Thomas Libous (R-Binghamton), who’s directing the GOP’s effort to recoup the upper house, said: “We really believe Zeldin can and will beat Foley ... I’d say he’s our top prospect on Long Island.”
In the same tone as Libous — that of a team manager sitting for the rah-rah pre-game interview — Josh Cherwin, executive director of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, predicted Foley, who defeated longtime incumbent Ceasar Trunzo in 2008, will pull through in November. “The DSCC is fully invested in defending his seat,” Cherwin said.
At certain moments, Suffolk looks like the center of all partisan drama in New York.
The Foley-Zeldin fight is especially important because, in theory, it can affect control of the upper house all by itself. Just a Zeldin win, with no other changes, would leave the tumultuous Senate split 31-31, with 32 votes needed to elect a leader. Last year, confusion reigned when Democratic Sen. Pedro Espada sat with the Republicans for a while, forcing just such a deadlock.
Beyond Long Island, however, the State Senate contest has many moving parts, with scattered races that could prove equally critical. A few possible battles of importance:
-- In the 58th District, in and near Buffalo, Democrat William Stachowski, first elected in 1981, faces a primary from Timothy Kennedy, who has the Conservative and Independence lines. Assemb. Jack Quinn, 32, seems to be one of the top statewide prospects for the Republicans.
-- Democratic Westchester Legis. Michael Kaplowitz seeks the 40th District seat — from which Republican Sen. Vincent Leibell is retiring. One factor is who wins the GOP primary: The leadership-preferred Mary Beth Murphy or the frequently controversial Assemb. Greg Ball.
-- In the 48th District, in the state’s northwest corner, Darrel Aubertine, a Democrat, won a special election in February 2008. This time out, state Republicans tout Patricia Ritchie, county clerk in St. Lawrence County.
-- In Queens’ 11th District, veteran Republican Sen. Frank Padavan, who barely won two years ago, faces ex-Councilman Tony Avella, touted by Cherwin as a “proven vote-getter.” But Libous insists 2008 was an aberration driven by Obama’s candidacy that “you’re not going to see again.”
-- In Queens’ 15th District, Republicans pin hopes on ex-City Councilman Anthony Como to oust Democratic Sen. Joseph Addabbo, who two years ago unseated veteran GOP Sen. Serphin Maltese.
Today’s widely detected anti-incumbent sentiment rivets tacticians. The GOP targets Democrats who most recently took seats from Republicans — but also, longtime incumbents such as Stachowski and Sen. Suzi Oppenheimer in Westchester’s 37th District.
Democrat Cherwin speaks of how such Republican senators as Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City) and Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) have been in office for decades and helped raise taxes. He cites improved Democratic fundraising and polling, as well as his party’s long-term gains in enrollment edge.
In his remarks, Libous says the Republicans plan to defend all 30 of their current seats, and “pick up another two seats we need for the majority, or three — and who knows, maybe four.”
Spoken like true team managers, pre-game.