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Eye on the Island: November 6, 2009

2010’s Election Cycle

Election Day 2009 is history so voters will now be given a respite from political mail and television commercials as well as candidate train station visits.

Elections Inc., however, is a big business, and operates year-round. Indeed, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2010, and Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010 are marked already on the industry’s calendars because, while county and town contests provide nice profit margins for direct-mail, polling, and media-buying companies, the 2010 state and federal election cycle may boost their collective bottom line even more.

The most immediate reason is the prospect of a September 2010 Democratic primary between Governor David Paterson and Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, although few believe such a scenario will materialize. With the state’s highest court having upheld the governor’s appointment of Lieutenant Governor Richard Ravitch, the governor can step down from office before his term expires at year-end 2010 with a credible successor in place. The Paterson-Cuomo matter, if left unresolved, will come to a head next spring when the state’s Democratic Party convenes to nominate officially its 2010 ticket for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, and comptroller. U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand are running statewide next year, too.

The Republicans could also have a gubernatorial primary in 2010, pitting former Rep. Rick Lazio of Suffolk County, who has already announced his candidacy, against Erie County executive Chris Collins. Collins is almost definitely going to run if Rudy Giuliani chooses not to, and most GOP insiders think Giuliani isn’t throwing his hat into the ring.

The governor’s office is worth fighting for because, while raising and spending tens of millions of dollars in campaign funds is a heavy lift, the victor becomes chief executive officer of a municipality which spends more than $130 billion a year.

All 212 seats in the state Legislature, 62 in the Senate and 150 in the Assembly, are also up for grabs in November 2010 but the action will be focused on the state Senate, where the Democrats hold a 32-30 edge. The Long Island seat GOP strategists believe can be flipped into the Republican column is the one held currently by state Senator Brian Foley (D-Blue Point). His 3rd senatorial district is in southwestern Suffolk County, covering the towns of Islip and Brookhaven. Those residents are about to become extremely familiar with the details of 2009’s state Legislature-approved Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) bailout package, which Senator Foley supported. The Island has eight other state Senators. One is a Democrat, and seven are Republicans.

Turning to the federal level, Long Island is home to five of the U.S. House of Representatives’ 435 seats, and every one of them is on November 2010’s ballot. Representatives Steve Israel (D-Dix Hills) and Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola) briefly talked this year about running a Democratic primary next year against Senator Gillibrand but backed off and will likely seek re-election to another two-year term to their current posts. The other three Representatives with Island constituencies are Gary Ackerman (D-Roslyn), Peter King (R-Seaford), and Timothy Bishop (D-Southampton).

Elections Inc., around this time next year, will then revisit the Island’s county legislators and town halls to see who’s doing what in 2011.

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