Well it looks like there might be a hot time in the old town after all.
What seemed to be a dismally uncompetitive election season on Long Island has suddenly turned interesting; Several races once seen as nonevents are now potential barn burners.
As a local political consultant I'll say right here at the top that I know most of the candidates involved in these races and that many of them have been clients in the past (and that may affect which races I think are the most compelling).
But now this is far from the only real race. What changed? Candidate designating petitions were due at the Boards of Elections no later than July 12.
For a candidate to appear on the ballot, state law requires that a certain number of signatures per party line. To collect them, party committee members and campaign workers have 38 hot summer days to get signatures. Then a potential candidate has four days to accept or decline that party's designation. If the candidate declines, a Committee to Fill Vacancies, named on the petitions, has four days to pick somebody else. It sounds confusing, but this process happens every year; Without it there would be no candidates to vote for in November.
On July 13, a day after the petition deadline, well-loved State Sen. Owen Johnson (R-West Babylon), announced he will retire. So he declined the Republican, Conservative and Independence designations. Those parties named Assemb. Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore) their standard-bearer. An open seat for State Senate would normally attract a crowd, but the lateness of Johnson's withdrawal left no time to collect petitions.
On the Democratic side, only Legis. Ricardo Montano of Brentwood had thrown his hat in the ring to run against Johnson, so he will be his party's nominee. This district is evenly split, with roughly 35 percent registered Republican or Conservative and 35 percent registered Democrats, Green or Working Family. With the Republicans holding a slim, one-seat majority in the State Senate, this race will attract a ton of contribution dollars.
Boyle's run for Senate left a vacancy for his Assembly seat. The Republicans nominated Sayville attorney Andrew Garbarino, 27, who's been involved in local politics, business and charities. The Democrats countered with former Town Councilman Chris Bodkin. He proved his mettle by winning a primary against the powerful Islip Town Republican Committee, then headed by Town Supervisor Peter McGowan. After switching to the Democratic Party, Bodkin lost his re-election bid. While this race will attract nowhere near the dollars that the Senate race will, it should still be hard fought.
Sadly, Assemb. James Conte (R-Huntington), who has cancer, announced he would not seek re-election. The Republicans stayed with the young-lawyer theme by designating 33-year-old Chad Lupinacci. The Democrats nominated Joseph Dujmic, also a 33-year-old attorney. As an open seat in a competitive district, this race should be interesting.
Finally, in a possible test of tea party strength, Assemb. Joseph Saladino (R-Massapequa) is being challenged in a primary by West Islip attorney Richard Young. Saladino has been popular, but his district has changed through reapportionment, and a primary is more often a battle over turnout, not popularity.
So stay tuned, Long Island. What looked to be a boring election season is turning into an intriguing fight card.
Michael Dawidziak is a political consultant and pollster.