As co-leader of the State Senate, Dean Skelos, 66, of Rockville Centre, is the highest-ranking Republican in state government. In an increasingly blue state, he's held on to leadership by forming an unprecedented coalition with a group of independent Democrats. It was a creative and dexterous arrangement that kept his party, and Long Island, at the head table. Regional competition over how to slice up the fiscal pie is brutal, and only experienced warriors bring home the goods from Albany.

Patrick P. Gillespie Jr., 24, of East Rockaway, is running on the Democratic line. Gillespie works for the county board of elections. He declined to be interviewed.

Skelos is proud of the budgetary discipline that the 2 percent tax cap has forced on schools and local governments. But he said the governor's commission on mandate relief, which was supposed to help schools lower costs and add flexibility, was a failure. Skelos would create a new commission that doesn't report solely to the governor. He also has championed the novel and promising idea of regional collective bargaining for teachers.

Those concrete proposals could bring about much-needed control over the cost of living on Long Island. Less clear, however, is how Skelos plans to fulfill promises to cut business and manufacturing taxes and reduce energy costs. He should put some meat on those bones and obtain funds to improve the traffic flow on the Nassau Expressway.

Newsday endorses Skelos.