Republican James Kennedy Wins Nassau Legislative Seat

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From left: Joseph Stufano and James Kennedy

Republican James D. Kennedy handily beat Democrat Joseph Stufano in a special election Tuesday to fill the vacant 12th Nassau County legislative district seat representing the county’s southeast corner, unofficial results show.

Kennedy, the son-in-law of the late Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt (R-Massapequa), who represented the same district before he died in 2012, won 85 percent of the vote against Stufano’s nearly 15 percent, out of 2,281 votes cast, according to initial tallies from the Nassau County Board of Elections.

Kennedy, 42, whose campaign manager was his mother-in-law—Schmitt’s widow—Lois, will replace one-term Nassau County Legis. Michael Venditto (R-Massapequa), who was elected in November to fill the 8th New York State Senate seat, which former Sen. Charles Fuschillo (R-Merrick) vacated a year prior.

The result was expected in a district where registered Republican voters far outnumber Democrats.

Kennedy, who also had the Conservative and Independence Party lines, is a Nassau elections board worker. His 53-year-old challenger is a biomedical engineer. Both are from Massapequa.

The race was the first of three special elections to fill vacant county legislative seats on Long Island.

In March 10, voters will decide who will fill the 19th Legislative District seat left vacant by former Legis. David Denenberg (D-Merrick), who resigned after pleading guilty to defrauding a client of his private law practice out of $2 million. At the time the case came to light, Denenberg was running against Venditto, son of Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto, for state Senate.

The second Nassau special election pits Rita Kestenbaum, 56, who’s running on the Democratic and Working Families party lines, against Steven Rhoads, 46, who has the Republican, Conservative and Independence party lines and the Tax Revolt party designation.

Kestenbaum is a former Hempstead Town Board member who became a gun control activist in 2007 after her 20-year-old daughter was shot to death on the night of her birthday outside her off-campus apartment in Tempe, Arizona, by a disturbed young man who then killed himself. Afterwards, Kestenbaum set up a foundation and has worked closely with the Long Island Crisis Center.

Rhoads is a personal injury attorney who twice tried to unseat Denenberg. Both candidates are from Bellmore. Republicans also outnumber Democrats in that district.

If the Republicans can win both Nassau special elections, then they would need to gain just another seat in the Nassau Legislature to control a super majority of 13 votes—they now have 10 of the 19 legislative seats—and that margin would enable the GOP to approve borrowing measures without needing Democratic support.

The third special election, in Suffolk’s 12th Legislative District, will be held on March 31 to fill the seat held by former Legis. John M. Kennedy Jr. (R-Nesconset), who won his bid to become Suffolk County comptroller in November. Kennedy’s 58-year-old wife, Leslie, a longtime aide who ran her husband’s office, will be running for the seat herself.

Kennedy’s Democratic challenger, Deborah Monaco, 55, is reportedly not going to run “an active campaign,” according to Suffolk County Democratic Chairman Rich Schaffer, due to time constraints and other factors. She has been the secretary of the Suffolk Democratic Committee and has a job at the Suffolk Board of Elections. Republicans outnumber Democrats in this district, too.

—With Spencer Rumsey