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Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
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County Control

Nassau’s Republicans will defend next month a GOP majority in the county Legislature for the first time in 12 years.

I say this because certain media outlets will leave the impression that Republicans have completely controlled county government since the Dawn of Time in the weeks leading up to the Tuesday, Nov. 8 elections. In fact, the actual date is Jan. 1, 2010, which is when County Executive Edward Mangano and 11 Republican county legislators gained a governing majority in Mineola.

The fight over the Nassau County Legislature’s composition plays out every two years across 19 legislative districts (LDs), and incumbents have had enormous success winning re-election since the county Legislature was created in the 1990s. It is one of the primary reasons the Democrats held a 10-9 edge in the county Legislature for a decade (2000-2009).

Looking to next month, the Democrats envision retaking the county Legislature by retaining the eight seats they currently hold, and then ousting two of these three Republican office holders: Legislators Joseph Belisi (R-Farmingdale), John Ciotti (R-North Valley Stream), and/or Howard Kopel (R-Lawrence). Farmingdale resident Eva Pearson, who is challenging Belisi in the 14th LD, and Adam Moser of Hewlett, the Democrats’ nominee in the 7th LD, Kopel’s district, are the candidates who will likely gain their party’s greatest financial and logistical support. The rationale: if you’re going to beat a sitting county legislator, it usually needs to occur when they’re seeking re-election for the first time. That is the case this year with both Belisi and Kopel.

The county’s Republicans, for their part, believe it is possible to flip a Democratic seat, now held by retiring county Legislator and minority leader Diane Yatauro (D-Glen Cove), into the GOP column in the 18th LD. The Democrats have nominated Glen Cove City Councilwoman Delia DeRiggi-Whitton to succeed Yatauro but a number of GOP insiders believe Robert Germino, who also resides in Glen Cove, can make the 18th LD contest a close one. Germino won 44 percent of the vote last year in a credible yet unsuccessful bid to unseat state Assemblyman Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove). But if you look closely at the 2010 election results in the 13th Assembly District, as political operatives in both parties have, a board of elections canvass shows that Germino narrowly carried (3,080-2,944) Glen Cove’s 19 election districts, a key battleground in the 18th LD.

The other Mineola parlor game centers on how county Legislator Denise Ford (R-Long Beach), a registered Democrat before winning election in the county’s 4th LD, will vote on matters should Election Day 2011 leave the Republicans with a 10-9, rather than their current 11-8, majority. Legislator Ford, for instance, voted against her 10 Republican colleagues this year when GOP lawmakers approved county worker layoffs to balance the 2011 budget.

None of these campaigns occurs in a vacuum. The county Legislature is holding three full-day public sessions (Thursday, Oct. 6, Wednesday, Oct. 12, and Friday, Oct. 28) this month at 1550 Franklin Avenue, Mineola to discuss the Mangano administration’s proposed 2012 budget, a $2.63 billion spending plan which calls for holding the line on the county portion of a property owner’s tax bill.

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