Democratic Legis. Dave Denenberg Enters State Senate Race

Dave Denenberg
Legis. Dave Denenberg (D-Merrick) launches his bid to fill State Sen. Chuck Fuschillo’s vacant seat.
Legis. Dave Denenberg (D-Merrick) launches his bid to fill State Sen. Chuck Fuschillo's vacant seat.
Legis. Dave Denenberg (D-Merrick) launches his bid to fill State Sen. Chuck Fuschillo’s vacant seat.

The race to replace Republican State Sen. Charles Fuschillo Jr., who abruptly retired late last year, took another step forward Thursday when Legis. Dave Denenberg (D-Merrick) formally launched his run for the 8th Senate District at the Seaford American Legion Post.

Denenberg, 49, has been a county legislator since 1999, with an appeal that consistently crosses over party lines, according to his election results. Sometimes he’s carried 73 percent of the electorate in his legislative district, which was almost 47 percent Republican. He handily won a newly redrawn district last November that was also heavily registered Republican.

“I dedicate my campaign to the hard-working families of Nassau and Suffolk who are struggling to make ends meet,” Denenberg said. “We can and will do better. Holding the line on property taxes, ensuring quality education and helping families and businesses in their continuing struggle to recover from Superstorm Sandy will be priorities for me.”

Nassau Republican mullahs, meeting Thursday night to pick their candidate for the seat, were coalescing around Mike Venditto, sources tell the Press, the son of the Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto. He won a special election in 2012 to replace the seat held by Peter Schmitt, who died in office while serving as the Republican majority leader of the Nassau Legislature. Last November Venditto, then 31, won re-election decisively when he ran unopposed.

The outcome could be crucial for control over the State Senate. Right now, the Republicans, led by Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) hold a narrow edge in Albany thanks to a power-sharing agreement with the five members of the Independent Democratic Conference.

Political insiders tell the Press that Skelos may be willing to pour up to $2 million to ensure that his party holds the seat. Democrats hope to counter with $500,000 to $1 million, sources say.

But first Denenberg may have to face a primary against the deputy mayor of Freeport, Carmen Pineyro, 37, who announced her candidacy last month.

“I like Carmen a lot,” says Nassau County Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs. “I think she’s an exceptional elected official.”

But Jacobs sees Denenberg “as by far the strongest candidate,” he tells the Press, because of his years in office, his name recognition, and his appeal to Republicans and independents. “He is definitely a proven vote-getter.”

So far Pineyro, a former Freeport school board member, apparently wants to see how far she can get before the September primary. She couldn’t run to fill Denenberg’s legislative seat because she doesn’t reside in his district; she lives in the one represented by Legis. Kevan Abrahams, the Democratic minority leader in the Legislature.

“Carmen’s a dynamic person!” says a close friend in Freeport. “When you tell Carmen ‘no’, she even runs harder!”

The New York’s 8th State Senate district includes areas of Roosevelt, Freeport, Baldwin, Merrick, Bellmore, Seaford, Wantagh, Amityville, North Amityville, Lindenhurst, the Massepequas, Farmingdale, Copiague and Wheatley Heights.