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Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
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Democrats’ Decade

Nassau’s Democrats took control of the county Legislature in January 2000, and the November 1999 Election Day victory which made it possible was memorialized on The New York Times’ front page.

A decade later, the Democrats’ loss of their 10-9 edge in the county Legislature was chronicled far from the Times’ front page, as was the still too-close-to-call county executive race between incumbent Thomas Suozzi and county Legislator Edward Mangano (R-Bethpage).

To be sure, the Times was more concerned this year with the Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial contests, the New York City mayoral election, and the fate of an open congressional seat in upstate New York.

No matter the outcome of the county executive election, the Republicans’ ability to win the Legislature’s majority on Election Day 2009 is a momentous event, especially considering the GOP tried and failed to do so in four consecutive county election cycles (2001, 2003, 2005 and 2007).

The way it happened: The Republicans held the nine seats which were already in their column, while also ousting one, and maybe two, Democratic incumbents. Legislator-elect Howard Kopel of Lawrence won by a comfortable margin in the 7th Legislative District (LD) over Legislator Jeffrey Toback (D-Oceanside), an LD which also covers Cedarhurst, Hewlett, and Woodmere. In addition, GOP challenger Joseph Belesi of Farmingdale held a 28-vote lead over Legislator David Mejias (D-Farmingdale) in the 14th LD after an initial canvass of the LD’s 57 election districts, according to the county board of elections’ Web site. The final result in the 14th LD, which includes parts of South Farmingdale and Old Bethpage, won’t be known until the absentee ballots have been tabulated.

So, come January, the Republicans will have either a 10-9 or an 11-8 majority in the county Legislature. This turn of events must come as a shock to Newsday’s editorial board, which unsurprisingly endorsed four Republicans and 13 Democrats for the 19-member Legislature. The paper made choices in only 17 LDs because Legislator Denise Ford (R-Long Beach) was running unopposed and Newsday declined to recommend anyone in the 15th LD, where Legislator Dennis Dunne, Sr. (R-Levittown) was re-elected.

There’s been much needless hand-wringing over the Republicans’ oft-stated intent to rescind the Democrats’ 2.5 percent county home energy tax, which went into effect this year and was expected to generate upward of $40 million for the county’s coffers in 2010. In the context of a $2.6 billion county budget, the Republicans can find $40 million in savings without cutting essential services.

Also, pay little attention to the shouting match between the Legislature’s presiding officer, Legislator Diane Yatauro (D-Glen Cove), and its minority leader, Legislator Peter Schmitt (R-Massapequa). The idea that they might not care for one another isn’t news. The news flash was Legislator Yatauro’s apparent attempt to have all job applications for Director, Office of Legislative Budget Review, a bipartisan post vacated recently by Eric Naughton, routed exclusively through her office, presumably to keep GOP legislators out of the loop. In fairness, Legislator Yatauro was first elected in 2003 so, as far as she knew, the only way you could get on the county payroll in the 2000s was to send a résumé to a Democrat.

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

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