Voters in Nassau County’s 19th Legislative District will cast their ballots Tuesday in a special election to fill the seat left vacant by former Legis. David Denenberg (D-Merrick), who recently resigned.

The candidates include Rita Kestenbaum, 56, who’s running on the Democratic and Working Families party lines, and Steven Rhoads, 46, who has the Republican, Conservative and Independence party lines as well as the Tax Revolt party designation. Both are from Bellmore.

Kestenbaum is a former member of the Hempstead Town Board, 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 turned the gun on himself. She later set up a foundation and has worked closely with the Long Island Crisis Center.

Rhoads is a personal injury attorney who previously twice tried to unseat Denenberg. If Rhoads wins, Republicans 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. That margin would enable the GOP to approve borrowing measures without needing Democratic support.

In the district, 41 percent of the 54,355 registered voters are Republicans (22,304 voters) and 31 percent are Democrats (16,708 voters). District 19 stretches from Seaford to south Freeport up to North Merrick and North Wantagh.

Last month, Republican James D. Kennedy, the son-in-law of the late Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt (R-Massapequa), handily beat Democrat Joseph Stufano in a special election to fill the 12th Nassau County legislative district seat left vacant when one-term Legis. Michael Venditto (R-Massapequa), the son of Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto, was elected in November to fill the 8th New York State Senate seat, which former Sen. Charles Fuschillo (R-Merrick) vacated a year prior.

Denenberg had resigned after pleading guilty to charging more than $2 million worth of legal services over eight years that he never provided.

A third special election will be held on March 31 in Suffolk’s 12th Legislative District 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

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Timothy Bolger is the Editor in Chief of the Long Island Press who’s been working to uncover unreported stories since shortly after it launched in 2003. When he’s not editing, getting hassled by The Man or fielding cold calls to the newsroom, he covers crime, general interest and political news in addition to reporting longer, sometimes investigative features. He won’t be happy until everyone is as pissed off as he is about how screwed up Lawn Guyland is.