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Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
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Campaign Nears End

The state attorney general (AG) holds a commanding lead in the gubernatorial polls, a Democrat appears poised to succeed the departing AG, and Alan Hevesi’s conduct while in office dominates the state comptroller’s race.

Yes, 2010’s campaigns for statewide office have progressed much like they did in 2006. The analogy can be extended to the U.S. Senate contests, too, where Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, like Senator Hillary Clinton four years ago, face low-profile Republican challengers.

The electoral surprises on Tuesday, Nov. 2 may come in a few of New York’s 29 U.S. House elections, or a handful of the 62 state Senate and 150 state Assembly races taking place this year. And while the governor, attorney general and state comptroller serve four-year terms, state lawmakers and U.S. House Members must run every two years.

From a Republican perspective, next week’s election comes down to whether the GOP can regain its majority in the state Senate. The state Legislature’s upper chamber had for decades been overseen by Republicans, many of whom represented upstate and suburban senatorial districts (SD). The Democrats won a 32-30 majority in the state Senate in 2008 and, given their overwhelming numerical edge in the state Assembly and control of the state’s executive branch through the governor’s office, have presided exclusively over state government in 2009 and 2010. Today, the governor is from Manhattan, the state Senate’s leader resides in Brooklyn, and the state Assembly’s speaker is from Manhattan.

Readers of this column are familiar with my concern about the city’s outsized influence over state government. This is how we ended up with a Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) payroll tax levied in seven downstate counties outside of New York City, as well as the city’s five boroughs, while toll-free crossings for cars traveling into and out of Manhattan remained toll-free.

The GOP’s bid to retake the state Senate has a sense of added urgency in 2010. Next year, the state Legislature will start redrawing the district lines for state and U.S. House offices for the 2012 election cycle, based on the 2010 U.S. Census results. Those boundaries will remain in effect through 2020. Moreover, if the GOP’s state Senators remain in the minority, a few may choose to retire, creating competitive races where none now exist.

If you want to see next Tuesday night how the GOP is faring in its bid to regain a seat at Albany’s table, check the outcome of state Senate races such as the one in Suffolk’s 3rd SD between state Senator Brian Foley (D-Blue Point) and his Republican rival, Lee Zeldin of Shirley, or the contest in Nassau’s 7th SD which pits state Senator Craig Johnson (D-Port Washington) against Mineola Mayor Jack Martins, the Republican candidate.

The other incumbent Democrats in the state Senate who are facing spirited GOP challenges include Westchester’s Suzi Oppenheimer, Queens’ Joseph Addabbo, and Jefferson County’s Darrel Aubertine. A correction: Paul Fein, not Mary Carillo, wrote 2008’s Tennis Confidential II. Carillo authored the book’s foreword but I incorrectly cited her as its co-author in my Oct. 14 column.

Mike Barry, a corporate communications consultant, has worked in government and journalism. Email: MFBARRY@optonline.net