Reading the Tea(bagger) Leaves From Next Week's New York State Assembly Special Elections

At the start of 2010 there was a minor exodus of members from the State Assembly. Some were dropping out to take jobs that in some cases were a step up from the Assembly, and some exits seemed less like a step up than an opportunity to just get the hell out. Those were an indication of just how powerless members of the State Assembly feel about their clout, regardless of party affiliation. Governor Paterson called for special elections to take place next Tuesday, February 9th to fill vacancies in 4 Assembly districts. Two seats look to be solid holds for the previous incumbent party. Two races can be viewed as harbingers of what may happen in November 2010 election -- and possibly whether the New York State Senate will revert to Republican control, or whether the bare Democratic majority will increase. Those who win the seats on February 9 will have the privilege of running again in November for full two-year terms. The party candidates were not chosen by primary -- but by the respective party district leaders (read, party bosses).

Here are the 4 contests:

Suffolk County - Assembly District 3: Democratic incumbent Patricia Eddington decided to abdicate her assembly seat to run and win election for Brookhaven Town Clerk (State Assembly to town clerk?). An aide to Eddington, Lauren Thoden was selected by the Democrats to run to succeed her former boss. Thoden is a lawyer who pledges to be a full time assembly member and work to cut state spending, reduce taxes and maintain school aid to her district. In addition to the Democratic line, Thoden is backed by the Working Families Party and the Suffolk Independence Party. She has also been endorsed by the AFL-CIO. Her website is The Republican candidate is businessman Dean Murray, who ran and lost a race for the Suffolk County Legislature last November against Jack Eddington, Patricia Eddington's husband. Murray owns a Long Island-based advertising and publishing company, and is aligning himself with the school tax cap advocates. Murray filed petitions to run on his home-grown School Tax Relief Party line. Murray's website is This race will be all about the get-out-the-vote effort. The party registration split in the district is relatively even between Democrats and Republicans. So this is a jump-ball election.

Nassau County - Assembly District 15: The Republican incumbent Rob Walker resigned his assembly seat in order to become the Deputy County Executive to the surprise winner of the Nassau County Executive race, Ed Mangano (who defeated Tom Suozzi). The Democratic candidate in the special election, Matt Meng, is a self-described environmentalist, owns a foreign auto repair shop, and heads a civic association in East Norwich. Meng ran and lost a race last year for Oyster Bay Town Board, and previously ran and lost a race for the State Senate. Meng advocates capping property taxes and reforming unfunded mandates and promotes new mass transit projects for the Long Island Rail Road. Meng says he will vote to control taxes, help small businesses, and protect the environment. Meng has a campaign website at The Republican candidate for the special election is Michael Montesano, a lawyer and former New York City police detective. Montesano, who is also running on the Conservative and Independence Party lines, ran and lost a competitive race last year for the Nassau county legislature. Montesano vows to vote against any tax increase and wants to roll back the MTA tax and restore cuts to school districts. The Assembly district registration gives an edge to the Republicans, and they should hold onto this seat. A good summary of the candidates can be found here courtesy of the Oyster Bay Enterprise Pilot:

Queens County -- Assembly District 24: Here we find a game of dynastic family musical chairs -- via New York City council term limits. This is a Weprin family legacy seat. Term-limited councilman David Weprin will be sliding over to the Assembly seat formerly held by his brother, Mark, who ran and won the city council election -- for David's term limited council seat last November. Mark Weprin secured the family Assembly seat in a 1994 special election to succeed his late father, former Assembly Speaker Saul Weprin. For this special election, David Weprin is running on the Democratic Party, Working Families Party, and the Independence Party lines. David Weprin's opponent for this assembly seat, Robert Friedrich, was Mark Weprin's Democratic primary opponent in last year's city council race. Friedrich is a registered Democrat running on the Republican Party line. The Democratic party holds a strong registration advantage here --and given Weprin's name recognition this race will be no contest.

Westchester County -- Assembly District 89: Adam Bradley resigned this assembly seat to become mayor of White Plains in January. The Democratic party candidate for the vacant seat is current Westchester County legislator Peter Harckham. Harckham has a background as an affordable housing developer and won election to the Westchester county board in 2007. Harckham has also received the backing of the Working Families Party and has won endorsement from the AFL-CIO. The Republican in this race is former Lewisboro Town Board member Bob Castelli, a Vietnam veteran and former New York State trooper. Castelli unsuccessfully ran for the assembly once before in 2004, garnering the endorsement of the New York Times when it was on an oust-all-incumbents rampage. Both Harckham and Castelli vow to fight property tax increases, with Castelli vowing to fight against state mandates but also aligning himself with the populist tea party movement. Castelli has also been an active blogger and user of Twitter for the campaign. The Democrats have a 10,000 registered voter edge over the Republicans, but in a special election all bets are off. Harckham and Castelli are known in the northern Westchester part of the district -- but have limited name recognition in the higher-populated southern end. This too is a jump ball and will depend on the GOTV effort waged by each candidate.

While Montesano and Weprin should win their races next week, if the Republicans take back AD#3 with Murray and AD#89 with Castelli, this will be a sign of trouble for the Democratic party up and down the line, likely accelerating the exit of David Paterson from the gubernatorial race, and indicating better odds to the Republicans retaking control of the State Senate in November.

Originally posted on