ALBANY — Long Island once again is the hot spot for state legislative races with four first-term Democratic senators battling for reelection and Republicans fighting to hold two seats following the retirement of two senators with more than 60 years’ experience.
All 63 seats in the State Senate and 150 in the Assembly are up for election.
Control of either chamber is unlikely to change, experts said, with Democrats holding huge margins in either house.
Rather, the key questions are: Can the Democrats capitalize on President Donald Trump’s unpopularity in New York to achieve a "supermajority" in the state Senate? Will the sudden decision of more than 10 veteran Republican senators not to run for a reelection prove to be a sign of their party’s chances? Can Republicans unseat some freshmen Democrats by running on a "law and order" theme and targeting money on a few races?
Currently, Democrats hold 40 Senate seats; Republicans 20. There are three vacancies. In the Assembly, it’s 103 Democrats, 42 Republicans and five vacancies.
The presidential election between Trump and Democrat Joe Biden will be the factor that overrides all local contests, said Bruce Gyory, a former gubernatorial adviser and an adjunct state professor at the State University of New York at Albany. The question is, how much impact will it have on "down ballot" races.
Here are some state legislative races to watch:
Democrat incumbents, big campaign money
Sen. Monica Martinez (D-Brentwood), Sen. Andrew Gounardes (D-Brooklyn) and Sen. Peter Harckham (D-South Salem), are in heated battles, based on where both Democrat and Republican campaign committees, and special interest groups, are spending big-time money — topping $1 million by mid-October.
All three are part of the Democrats’ big freshman class of 2018, taking seats that Republicans long controlled.
Martinez is facing Republican Alexis Weik, the Islip town receiver of taxes, in a Suffolk County district that had long backed Republicans prior to 2018.
Gounardes is facing Republican Vito Bruno in Brooklyn. Harckham is facing Rob Astorino, the former Westchester County executive and the GOP’s 2014 nominee for governor.
Freshman Democrats playing defense
Sen. Kevin Thomas (D-Levittown), who perhaps pulled the biggest surprise win in 2018, is facing Republican Dennis Dunne in a Nassau County Senate district.
Also on Long Island, Sen. James Gaughran (D-Northport) is running against Republican Edmund J. Smyth, a Huntington town councilman. And in a Catksills/Hudson Valley district, Sen. Jen Metzger (D-Rosendale) faces Republican Mike Martucci.
Party committees and special interest groups are spending in the six figures for these races, though not quite as much as the top line contests.
Republican retirements in Democrat districts
There are plenty of these, but the one Democrats feel most confident about is a Buffalo-based contest between Democrat Assemblyman Sean Ryan and Republican Joshua Mertzlufft.
Two Rochester districts feature overwhelmingly Democratic enrollments but had backed popular Republican incumbents. Now those seats are very much up for grabs because of retirements.
Democrat Samra Bouck is running against Republican Christopher Missick to replace Sen. Rich Funke. Democrat Jeremy Cooney is running against Republican Mike Barry to replace Sen. Joe Robach.
In a Capital Region/Mid-Hudson district, Democrat Michelle Hinchey, daughter of a late New York congressman, runs against Republican Rich Amedure, a candidate with a name close to the incumbent who’s leaving, Sen. George Amedore.
Republican retirements, enrollment tossups
On Long Island, Republican Assemb. Anthony Palumbo is running against Democrat Laura Ahearn to replace Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), who is retiring after 44 years in office.
In a Syracuse-based district, Republican Angi Renna is running against Democrat John Mannion, who narrowly lost to the GOP’s Robert Antonacci in 2018. Antonacci later resigned after being elected to a judgeship.
Lone LI GOP senator
Once, Republicans boasted of the "Long Island Nine," its delegation of nine Republican senators forming the most influential voting bloc in the chamber.
Now, Sen. Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore) is the lone GOP senator on the Island running for reelection. He’s facing former Assemb. Christine Pellegrino in a district that slightly favors Democrats in enrollment.
Long Island Assembly turnover
At minimum, the Island will get five new representatives in its 22-member Assembly delegation because of open seats.
In Suffolk County races, it’s Republican Jodi Giglio versus Democrat Laura Jens-Smith in District 2; Republican Jarrett Gandolf vs. Democrat Francis Genco in District 7; and Republican Keith Brown vs. Democrat Michael Marcantonio in District 12.
In Nassau County, Republican Ragini Srivastava faces Democrat Gina Sillitti in District 16.
And in a district that straddles both counties, Republican Michael Durso faces Democrat Ann Brancato.