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One of the parlor games of this election season is determining how local races will affect the balance of power in Albany and the dynamics of the next legislative session.
Now that Republican Phil Boyle, who represents the 4th Senate District, is dropping out of the race for Suffolk County sheriff after his GOP primary defeat last week, both major parties are breathing a sigh of relief.
Republicans hold the majority in the State Senate by one vote, and Boyle’s fellow GOP senators were not happy with his bid for a better-paying job in Riverhead. While the GOP still would have been favored in that district if Boyle had won the Republican nomination for sheriff, such a quick turnaround would have made them vulnerable. The GOP was ready to tee up Suffolk County Legis. Tom Cilmi to vie for the seat, while the Democrats had pretty much settled on Legis. Lou D’Amaro, who is term-limited.
The Democrats also had planned to use County Executive Steve Bellone heavily as a validator for D’Amaro because his favorable ratings in the district are astronomical. Bellone was given credit for helping newcomer Christine Pellegrino win the 9th Assembly District seat in May.
Now, Democrats will have to wait until next year to see whether they can break the GOP’s hold on Boyle’s Senate seat. Boyle was popular before the sheriff’s race fiasco, and it’s too soon to tell whether he did permanent damage to his brand.
It takes about $3 million or so to contest a Senate seat, and the Democrats might have a more urgent need right now to spend money in Westchester County to stop the GOP from picking up a Senate seat there. Democrat George Latimer, who represents the 37th Senate District, has an uphill but decent shot at upsetting Republican incumbent Rob Astorino for Westchester executive, especially if a Democratic wave occurs. If Latimer wins, there would be a special election in the beginning of the year for his Senate seat. And if Democrats hold on to that seat in 2018, the trend might nudge some GOP elders, like Bill Larkin, 89, who represents the upper Hudson Valley, to pack it in rather than swim upstream.
Judges on the lines
As the Democratic, Conservative and Independence parties try to clean up the steaming pile left by the defeat of State Sen. Phil Boyle in the GOP primary for Suffolk County sheriff, one thing left unchanged is their deal for judicial cross-endorsements in two state Supreme Court races — a deal that stiffed Republicans.
In exchange for the tacit support of Boyle by Democratic Party leader Rich Schaffer, the Conservatives agreed to give their judicial ballot line to William Rebolini, an incumbent Democrat. In return, Democrats gave up a chance to elect one of their own to the state Supreme Court; instead, the party will support Linda Kevins, a Conservative Party member, for the open seat. Justice Carol MacKenzie, who is retiring, is a Republican.
The Point has learned that Suffolk Republicans will nominate Richard Hoffman and Robert Lifson on Tuesday night. Both are well-regarded jurists who lost re-election races. With the two having only one line each on the ballot, and with little attention paid by most voters to judicial nominations, Republicans will have a hard, but not impossible, time winning the judicial races. However, their candidacies can also send a message about voters having a choice.
DeVos and recovery
Controversial U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos supports recovery high schools for students coping with substance abuse. That’s welcome news to people fighting opioid battles on Long Island, such as Jeffrey Reynolds, president and CEO of the Family & Children’s Association in Mineola.
DeVos expressed her support in an interview published Monday by Education Week after a four-day, six-state Rethink School tour. On Friday, she stopped at Hope Academy in Indianapolis, a tuition-free charter school that provides a supportive setting for teens recovering from addiction, one of 38 such schools in the country.
In her Q&A about the tour, DeVos was asked whether she learned something new about public schools. A hard-line advocate for private school vouchers and charter schools, DeVos responded with the expected complaint that bureaucracy enforces the status quo and makes it hard to innovate “at a building level to really kind of break out of that mold and do things differently to meet students’ needs.”
She cited discussion about the need for more recovery high schools, saying, “The solution to that is . . . to help create the environment and encourage states to create the environment that these kinds of schools can grow and happen.”
In New York this spring, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office asked BOCES to work with existing education dollars to create a plan for recovery high schools. Reynolds said that on Long Island, that wouldn’t mean a stand-alone schoolhouse, but a school within a school.
He predicted that will happen without federal funding, but that more money would certainly move things along.
“A flow of federal dollars would maybe help make it happen faster,” he said, “and could bring a school district to the table” to host a recovery program within one of its schools.
Support for these programs may be one of the few areas where DeVos and the New York education system can agree.