Republican Rhoads Wins Nassau Legislative Seat

rita and steve
From left: Democrat Rita Kestenbaum and Republican Steven Rhoads.

Republican Steven Rhoads beat Democrat Rita Kestenbaum in a special election Tuesday to fill the 19th Nassau County legislative district seat left vacant when former Legis. David Denenberg (D-Merrick) resigned.

Rhoads, a personal injury attorney who had twice tried to unseat Denenberg, beat Kestenbaum, a former Hempstead town councilwoman, by a margin of 58 to 41 percent out of more than 5,600 votes cast, according to unofficial votes tallied by the Nassau County board of elections. Both are from Bellmore.

“I am very honored that our community has elected me as their representative in the Nassau County Legislature,” Rhoads said in a Facebook post. “Earning your trust, confidence, and support is extremely humbling and an honor for which I will always be grateful.”

The GOP majority in the Nassau legislature is now just one seat shy of a super majority of 13 votes—they now have 12 of the 19 legislative seats. That margin would enable Republicans to approve borrowing measures without needing Democratic support.

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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